Oct 24 2013

Golden Rice – A Touchstone

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114 responses so far

114 Responses to “Golden Rice – A Touchstone”

  1. davewon 24 Oct 2013 at 8:57 am

    I am one of those who is biased against GMO largely for emotional reasons. I’d like to think that my strong objections to Round-up ready crops are more fact based, however.

    You have made many good points about Golden Rice and it sounds like a winner. I did a quick read on Wikipedia and my last objection, cost, was assuaged as well. Monsanto is giving away free licenses for Golden Rice to developing countries.

  2. xeison 24 Oct 2013 at 9:10 am

    I agree, Golden Rice is an interesting case study as it appears to deal with the majority of the political concerns that are present at the heart of many GMO objections. In addition to the points raised above, when I read up on this a few months ago, it appeared to be “free”, can be grown and sold in local markets, the seeds can be retained and grown in following seasons (not breaking the agricultural cycle).

    My feeling is that resistance to Golden Rice from the likes of Greenpeace is an instinctive reaction to the process that produced Golden Rice. There is also an inability to accept that “big agriculture” would actually give away anything that did not benefit them by, for example, allowing GM crops to be grown in areas where it is currently outlawed. So if Europe starts growing GM rice, what objection could they have to growing pesticide resistant GM maze with all the features they object to.

    It is a difficult and nuanced issue, especially as we are right on the edge of “Think of the children” fallacies here. I find myself personally persuaded of the benefits of golden rice, and I hope it provides the benefits it promises.

  3. Kieselguhr Kidon 24 Oct 2013 at 10:26 am

    I’m pretty strongly pro-GMO, but I think you undercut your own argument (and, sort of acknowledged it). You point out that pro-GMO folks should acknowledge the problems of monoculture — and I do! But as you point out also, that’s not really a GMO issue. Similarly I have issues with big agricultural firms and how they use market power — but it’s not a GMO issue. You say GMO encourages monoculture, but that’s hardly clear and you don’t make any effort to support it. I think in the prevailing climate of fear, GMO encourages monoculture and big ag largely because nobody else can develop it! If you’re an academic lab trying to make something that will help people, a bunch of morons will come destroy your work, and you’ll be buried in lawsuits: so it’s big firms defending small product lines, or nobody. I mean, they grow crops that people hope may be used to produce vaccines _at Fort Detrick_. What does it say that you need military protection for something like tht?

    I have never heard an anti-GMO argument which isn’t general far outside of GMOs.

    I am unaware of “fact-based” objections to Roundup ready crops. They encourage some resistance, but again, true of all herbicidal techniques.

  4. ccbowerson 24 Oct 2013 at 10:45 am

    Having the issue already framed as pro-GMO or anti-GMO is really a problem. Unfortunately that is the way to issue is usually discussed at the current time. Hopefully public attitudes about this topic will mature over time. To me GMO or not is not directly relevant to any issue, and I agree that each GMO product should be evaluated on a per case basis. Having an opinion about GMOs in a broad sense is nonsensical, and to me is like having an opinion about drugs, or people, or emotions. The category is so heterogenous that no broad statements positive or negative statements can be made about the category as a whole.

    The only issue GM crops have is that they introduce a new product, and should be evaluated as perhaps a new cultivar is, the difference is that we have more specific information about how that new product is different. The issue of monoculture you mention seems like a broader modern agricultural issue not directly related to GMOs, although I could see how GMOs could impact the issue. Having one or a few desirable cultivars of a plant seems to be the issue, and this will be the issue with or without GMOs

  5. ccbowerson 24 Oct 2013 at 10:52 am

    “The category is so heterogenous that no broad statements positive or negative statements can be made about the category as a whole.”

    Let me clarify as I read K Kid’s post after my own. I can see being pro-GMO as a technology to be used, but I was thinking more along the lines of being pro-GMO as a category of plants. Now that I think about it, that appears to be a difference between the 2 sides.

    Anti-GMO people tend to dislike GMO as a category, due to ideological attachment to the naturalistic fallacy (or more general fear of technology or change). People who are “pro-GMO” tend to think of the category more in terms of what the technology can potentially do rather than being for GMO plants in general. It is clear to me who is letting their ideology do the thinking

  6. locutusbrgon 24 Oct 2013 at 11:38 am

    Beyond the monoculture issue, there is also an economic issue with GM organisms. Proprietary organisms give the patent owner economic/production monopoly sway. There is some substance to GM objector’s issues with economic manipulation and proprietary organisms. If a poor third world region converted to Golden rice completely. Unless the creator has sacrificed all rights to the organism for the good of the children. Which I am doubtful of.

  7. pdeboeron 24 Oct 2013 at 11:39 am

    If I start buying Golden rice, will this help grow the product, or will this just encourage an exclusive first world market?

    Also, why can’t I buy it now!?

  8. Steven Novellaon 24 Oct 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Golden rice is freely available for humanitarian use: http://www.goldenrice.org/Content1-Who/who4_IP.php

    They also encourage breeding with local varieties to increase the number of cultivars with the beta carotene, and to deal with the issue of monoculture.

  9. locutusbrgon 24 Oct 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Well then there should be no objections from reasonable people.

  10. pdeboeron 24 Oct 2013 at 12:49 pm

    Dang, I was hoping for a non-profit in North America to sell the rice, but its humanitarian operations in developing countries only, no exports.

    In looking at the opposition, I see a claim that beta-Carotene can only be absorbed when served with fats. I found that this is untrue.

    This study says b-Carotene in Golden Rice is as good as b-carotene in oil at providing vitamin A to children and even better than spinach.

    http://www.goldenrice.org/PDFs/GR_bioavailability_AJCN2012.pdf

    The study link is broken by the way.

    Turns out it should be the link above…

  11. Enzoon 24 Oct 2013 at 2:58 pm

    I was glad to see they are paying attention to how it tastes and cooks and its texture. http://www.goldenrice.org/Content2-How/how8_tests.php

    I honestly think, in addition to the knee-jerk anti-GMO sentiments, taste is a significant adoption barrier. Seems like the beta-carotene concentrations ought to be low enough to not affect flavor profiles, but I’m glad it is being evaluated. Now to avoid the golden-color placebo flavor (though apparently the yellow partially fades when cooked).

  12. ConspicuousCarlon 24 Oct 2013 at 3:18 pm

    “there is some controversy over whether parents were given
    sufficient information that their children would be eating GMO food.”

    From that linked page, it sounds like they knew they were part of a trial of rice with vitamin A, but they merely weren’t told that it was added to the rice by genetic means?

    That’s a completely irrelevant gripe given that there are no special risks. You don’t normally tell test subjects the exact manufacturing method for a trial, and in most cases they are unlikely to even understand the chemistry involved. Asking for the GMO origin to be disclosed is an arbitrary and additional demand.

    And given that there are no known or even likely risks, this is basically complaining that GMO is bad because people weren’t warned that GMO might be bad.

  13. Kieselguhr Kidon 24 Oct 2013 at 5:38 pm

    Conspicuous Carl, even though I’m strongly pro-GMO, your argument disturbs me a whole lot, and I think (and I’ve submitted a few protocols to IRBs) that it’s not good practice. In the current environment., lots of people really, really fear and dislike GMOs (and Chinese certainly do, too). When you write that disclosure you genuinely are trying to accommodate the subject where you can; it’s not adversarial. I’m a vegetarian; that comes for core ethical beliefs about right and wrong that are in some sense superstition. If I were in some trial and the researcher did not disclose that something I might reasonably assume did not contain animal products, did, then I’d feel pretty ill used. Probably they should’ve seen a reason who people would want to know (and if they think there’s a reason people might want to know and the don’t disclose, then, whoo, somebody should be flogged). That’s just good research practice.

  14. ccbowerson 24 Oct 2013 at 10:02 pm

    Kieselguhr Kid-

    I’m not sure if I understand what what bothered you in particular about what CCarl said. Is it regarding the labeling of GMO products, and whether or not labeling should become mandatory for foods sold, or is it a more narrow issue regarding informed consent in clinical research?

  15. ConspicuousCarlon 25 Oct 2013 at 8:54 am

    Maybe KK lives somewhere with standard “lookout GMO!” labels, or maybe China has that, but it certainly isn’t a legal standard everywhere and there isn’t really a logical basis for concern.

    If vegetarianism were really just a superstition, maybe that would raise an interesting point. But it isn’t. Many, maybe even most, vegetarians have a direct goal of reducing harm to animals. Nobody opposes GMO because they think that nucleic acids experience moral harm.

  16. Kieselguhr Kidon 25 Oct 2013 at 11:54 am

    ccbowers, Conspicuous Carl — it’s neither of the things you suggest, rather it’s that what Conspicuous Carl suggests really undermines the concept of patient disclosure. Again, it;s not supposed to be adversarial. The researcher is not trying to stay tightly within the law and go no further. In California, say, where there is no GMO labelling law, you had probably better disclose anyway, because it is a reasonable belief — as it is pretty much everywhere, including China — that your research subject may be strongly opposed to GMOs. The fact that your subject’s belief is loopy is beside the point; when you can respect it you do. To do otherwise, as Carl suggests, would do immense harm to human subjects research; the cure you guys have is much worse than the disease.

  17. ccbowerson 25 Oct 2013 at 2:43 pm

    “ccbowers, Conspicuous Carl — it’s neither of the things you suggest”
    “the cure you guys have is much worse than the disease.”

    I’m not sure what you are talking about. I have not provided a “cure” for anything. I just asked a question to clarify your objection, because I wasn’t quite sure which CCarl statement you objected to. Your explanation sounds much more like the informed consent issue I suggested, but perhaps you mean it more generally with regards to research practice. If I understand you, you are saying disclosure about GMOs used in a study should be done, even if the only reason is that there are people who would want to know. I don’t disagree, and I’m not sure how you thought I did since I didn’t previously offer an opinion..

  18. rezistnzisfutlon 25 Oct 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Putting Golden Rice research studies into perspective, I don’t think the researchers at the time had any reasonable expectation of participant objections to GE rice. That was a time before the existence of an anti-GMO movement where fear and hysteria regarding it was well known. To the researchers, GR was merely rice that had beta carotene grown into it, nothing more I’m sure if it was a known objection at the time, it would have been taken into account and disclosed, or the studies designed differently.

    As most skeptics and nearly any agricultural biologist will say, there was no biological reason to suspect harm, and since there was no cultural attachment one way or another with GMOs, there was no reason to disclose that aspect of it.

  19. rezistnzisfutlon 25 Oct 2013 at 4:17 pm

    Unfortunately, nearly all of the conversation regarding GMOs have been clogged by hysteria and misinformation. Little meaningful conversation regarding them has had the opportunity to flourish outside of science and academia, and this is nearly universally due to ideologically-driven activists and their systematic campaign of misinformation.

    When drilled down to facts, none of the objections to GMOs have to do with safety, nutrition, or the health of the foods themselves, but rather visceral reactions to the concept of seed patenting, and even corporations themselves. There are many who object for naturalistic reasons and some even on religious grounds, though for the most part these are unfounded considering that humans have been altering the genetics of crops since agriculture began. The irony is, due to the high cost of regulation, litigation, and unpopularity in many areas, only larger corporations can shoulder the risks in order to yield profits of any sort.

    I echo what Kieselguhr Kid said earlier about monoculture, which really is a more universal issue related to feeding a population in the billions. Currently, there simply is no way around it and, as far as I know, solutions to this becoming an ever growing problem are being constantly researched. While logically it makes sense that GM crops may encourage monocultures, I have yet to see actual data supporting this.

    As far as seed patenting, this has been in place in the US since the 1930s with the Plant Patent Act.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plant_Patent_Act_of_1930

    One possible legitimate concern regarding RR resistant crops is the continued use of glyphosate, though the current research on glyphosate resistant weeds seems to indicate that this has been on ongoing problem long before RR crops were introduced. The solution to this seems to be simply rotating crops as well as the types of pesticides used, and develop different pesticides if/when weeds become tolerant to multiple vectors.

    http://weedcontrolfreaks.com/2013/05/superweed/

    Anyone with any knowledge of evolution will understand that ANY change placed on an environment, whether it’s with the introduction of predatory insects to control for insect pests with organic farming, or the use of a particular chemical fungicide, will introduce selection pressures causing the eventual adaptation of the target species, or the (likely) introduction of a “replacement” resistant species filling the niche.

    A great resource to learn more about GMOs is Biology Fortified, for anyone not familiar with them. The comments sections in the articles are especially useful in seeing common anti-GMO arguments and their deconstructions based on science, evidence, and properly applied skepticism:

    http://www.biofortified.org/

    Here is a link indicating the broad scientific consensus regarding GMOs by major scientific organizations and regulatory bodies from around the world:

    http://www.biofortified.org/2013/10/20-points-of-broad-scientific-consensus-on-ge-crops/

    Here is a link to 600+ safety assessment published in peer-reviewed scientific journals:

    http://gmopundit.blogspot.com/p/450-published-safety-assessments.html

    http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2013/10/08/with-2000-global-studies-confirming-safety-gm-foods-among-most-analyzed-subject-in-science/#.UmrOUxDUMcW

    I hope this isn’t too many links for one post.

  20. kevinfoltaon 25 Oct 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Steve, a good note, but monoculture is not a GM issue. It is a plant breeding issue, and most of the GM crops are actually hybrids that exploit heterosis arising from ranging genetic diversity to boost their value.

    Today plant breeders (then genetic engineers) have access to the most ranging germplasm ever available along with molecular tools to characterize diversity. They oftentimes combine ranging genotypes because of excellent combining qualities.

    The plants in the field come from materials produced through many pipelines, not much narrower germplasm than what is used on conventional ag and has kept us fat, happy and fueled for a long time.

  21. rezistnzisfutlon 25 Oct 2013 at 7:12 pm

    Kevin, I’m glad you’re here. :)

  22. rezistnzisfutlon 25 Oct 2013 at 7:20 pm

    I actually posted some links to Biofortified, etc., regarding this discussion that is awaiting moderation, must have been one too many.

  23. ccbowerson 25 Oct 2013 at 11:51 pm

    “Putting Golden Rice research studies into perspective, I don’t think the researchers at the time had any reasonable expectation of participant objections to GE rice.”

    I am not sure which studies we are talking about, and I am not sure exactly how we came to this topic, but I came across one article involving Tufts University in which their internal investigation found problems with how informed consent was obtained beginning in 2008. Both the CDC and Tufts felt the ethical violations (and I assume negative publicity as well) were significant enough to result in significant repercussions (including firing and suspensiosn) for several of the investigators.

    According to the article they were aware of the issue so much that they intentionally avoided the disclosure. That makes the violation much worse, since it runs exactly counter to the purpose of obtaining informed consent in the first place. The anti-GMO movement is fairly new, but not that new. It has been around as long as people have been aware that GMO have been in use, sometime in the mid to late 1990s I believe.

    http://www.tuftsdaily.com/news/university-admits-golden-rice-ethics-violation-1.2838537#.Umsy4UbD9es

    Now requiring labeling on products is another issue altogether, and for that I have been against (as discussed in previous blog posts on this site) For me, adding additional labeling (and add more information noise to packaging) should be optional, just like other characteristics that some people may be interested in, but otherwise have no compelling reason to be required. If a person wants GMO free food (for whatever irrelevant reason they think up), then they will have their choice of products that advertise this.

  24. rezistnzisfutlon 26 Oct 2013 at 12:56 am

    Golden Rice was in development 8 years before 2000 when it was published in Nature, so I was referring to the studies done then. However, I do agree that the more recent iteration should have had better informed consent procedures. My understanding is that the scientist in question was admonished by the community fairly rapidly and severely.

    As far as I know, the anti-GMO movement didn’t get much traction until the mid-2000s as GMOs became more prevalent. There has always been opposition to it, but it didn’t have the national attention it’s gotten more recently.

  25. kevinfoltaon 26 Oct 2013 at 4:46 am

    @rezistnzisfutl – The Tufts University PI resigned. IRB rules are extremely important and it is such a great case where the science takes a major step forward but some element leads to misdirection and a place to poke. The data are good and support the hypothesis that GR can raise vitamin A levels.

    If GR was deployed back in 2000 you would have now seen a decade of rapid breeding and adaptation, new strains, more lives saved. They have a death count.

    GR is one issue that the anti-GM folks CANNOT let succeed. It (like PRV resistant papaya) does what GM should do– help people in ways that have no effect on a corporate bottom line. If it is allowed to save lives, then the labeling argument goes out the window, the insane regulation/deregulation bar comes down and more products gravitate toward the poor, especially from the public sector.

    The more we can demonstrate successful assistance of the farmer, the needy, the environment and the consumer the weaker their position gets.

  26. Mlemaon 27 Oct 2013 at 4:31 am

    Understanding what I do about transgenic technology and it’s potential for unwanted effects in many areas, I’m not willing to accept gr as a “touchstone”. It seems unreasonable to say: “here we have golden rice, and if you don’t now acknowledge transgenic technology as integral to the benefit of suffering humanity, you are a fanatic of some sort.” I prefer to study the issue in depth, including it’s epidemiological ramifications, wait for the evidence (after sorting it out from the media spin), and then form a decision. Isn’t that what skepticism suggests? Why must we make an ideological choice?

    This talk about “evil” and “death counts” is decidedly irrational and inflammatory. I find no evidence that anti-gmo campaigns slowed the development of gr in any way. The implementation may have been slowed by some governmental resistance. That’s because not all countries rubber-stamp new gmos like the US does, and farmers have seen what problems can happen when gm crops find their way into their economy – if for no other reason than a plunge in marketability.

    Perhaps the gmo industries will supply vast amounts of gmo canola to the starving children in order to ensure that the beta-carotene in gr will be utilized. That would be good. Maybe. It would be more calories and fat. It’s too bad we can’t engineer into the rice something that would quell the people’s hunger for something more than rice. Sorry, but I can’t help but wonder how far all the money spent on the development and PR around GR would have gone towards some more comprehensive solution to the problem of malnourished populations. One thing they need is to have land restored. Many of the hungry have lost their family farms to land grabbing or violent conflict. Many could be helped by instruction in improved agriculture and the introduction of diverse plantings that provide plenty of vit a. Has the golden rice been tested in the target populations? I’ve read that in the Phillipines where it’s been grown, the vit a problem has been greatly reduced in recent years, prior to gr. If it continues to decline – will gr claim responsibility for that? The way Monsanto claimed increased yields of cotton in India were due to bt cotton, when in reality yields were growing prior to its introduction – and they fell after bt cotton was established?

    GMOs are an issue that we can’t seem to sort out so long as the science remains obscure to so many, and as that science is represented in a limited way to the public, and as long as independent research is stymied due to lack of access to industry protocols and also due to lack of funding. It’s not skeptical to claim a touchstone issue on golden rice, IMHO.

  27. Mlemaon 27 Oct 2013 at 4:59 am

    kevinfolta,

    I would be interested in your comments on this research:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23215020

    also, isn’t it true that the ringspot virus grew as a problem due to the encouragement of more intensive planting? the same type of agriculture which has encouraged the pests that have supplanted the virus? And that both these pests have been mitigated with more traditional style plantings? And that researchers have developed a non-gmo ringspot-resistant papaya? And that the gmo labs failed to contain their research, and that many non-gmo farms were contaminated – causing financial loss to the farmers who could no longer sell to many of their lucrative overseas markets?

    There seems to be a recurring story every time a fruit faces some particular pest/ The story goes: “only GMO can save this fruit.”

    Also interested in your thoughts on:
    http://www.biosafety-info.net/file_dir/697848857c49a7da2.pdf

  28. Mlemaon 27 Oct 2013 at 5:10 am

    Many scientists are encouraging a deeper look at gmo’s in their ubiquitous presence in our diet and environment.

    http://www.stopogm.net/sites/stopogm.net/files/DifferentPerspective.pdf

    http://www.twnside.org.sg/title2/service221.htm

  29. Mlemaon 27 Oct 2013 at 5:16 am

    kevinfolta,

    wondering also about your thoughts about unpredicted and unwanted consequences of in vitro RNA modification, which will likely comprise a growing number of GMOs?

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412013000494

  30. ccbowerson 27 Oct 2013 at 10:51 am

    “Understanding what I do about transgenic technology and it’s potential for unwanted effects in many areas”

    If you are going to make a statement like this, follow it up with examples of the “many areas” of “unwanted effects.” Otherwise it reads like an unsubstantiated claim

    “Isn’t that what skepticism suggests? Why must we make an ideological choice?”

    Hmm, well to me it is the anti-GMO movement that is prone to ideological motivated reasoning. It is not necessarily the conscious choice you imply- I am sure that for the most part, people think that they are thinking clearly and without significant bias. GMO proponents may sound overly optimistic at times, but that is different than the blatant misunderstanding or the spreading of misinformation, which is common for groups who are strongly against (just use the googles and you will see).

    There seem to be 2 main ideological areas that skew attitudes against GMOs – anti-corporate attitudes, and naturalistic fallacy. You appear to have tendencies toward both, so that helps certain arguments seem compelling to you. There really isn’t a pro GMO equivalent movement among the general public. Let’s not forget that most people do not have strong feelings one way or the other, at least in the U.S., and also most are not that knowledgeable about the topic.

    “Sorry, but I can’t help but wonder how far all the money spent on the development and PR around GR would have gone towards some more comprehensive solution to the problem of malnourished populations.”

    Like… what is already being done? Steve mentioned this argument above as being a false choice. From my perspective, it is absurd to think that we should not develop new approaches and technologies just because there will continue to be poverty in the world. That is a false choice. It advocates for only a perfect solution, or none at all. It is ideologically motivated reasoning that is argued for people who do not like the approach for other reasons.

  31. Mlemaon 27 Oct 2013 at 4:18 pm

    ccbowers,
    “If you are going to make a statement like this, follow it up with examples of the “many areas” of “unwanted effects.” Otherwise it reads like an unsubstantiated claim”

    I’ve provided some links – both here and in numerous past posts. How have you formed your opinion? I only hear parroting of “naturalistic fallacy” and “anti-corporate sentiment”. Nothing about the real problems, or the idea that individuals ought to be able to choose what type of economy they want to support with their purchases. Remember, gmos are supported indirectly by tax dollars through the US farm bill. Perhaps you could provide examples of the “blatant misunderstanding or the spreading of misinformation”
    you believe contributes to anti-gmo sentiment. Although there are many people who are ignorant of the science on both sides of the issue, I’ve attempted to critically evaluate the science I have access to, and have thus formed my opinions.

    “Hmm, well to me it is the anti-GMO movement that is prone to ideological motivated reasoning.”

    Of course you do! But that doesn’t mean that scientists who have continually complained that regulation is inadequate and the negative consequences of every transgenic organism go unexamined are prone to ideological reasoning.

    I myself have many anti-corporate LAW attitudes. This is because US law since the 1980′s has decimated everything earlier generations worked to establish in the way of safety, anti-trust and equitable taxation. . Biotech companies that develop transgenic food have taken advantage of this political climate. The close and uncritical relationship between Bush I, the biotech industry and the USDA, FDA, allowed gmos in the fields and markets with no real comprehensive evaluation. But I don’t fault Bush alone, since we’ve had a problem with corporate money in politics for years. Now that there is a groundswell of protest – from scientists, farmers and consumers – we have a powerful PR effort to ensure that golden rice will serve to shame those who express doubt.

    “Like… what is already being done?”

    No, like what is not being done. What could have been attempted if the money and intelligence were directed so.
    Make no mistake, the gmo industry has been using the gr issue for years to paint itself as altruistic and humanitarian (thinking only of the benefit of scientific advancement even before there was a version of gr that provided any benefit at all) Anyone who points out that gr doesn’t solve any problem that could be addressed better by some other means is painted as an irrational anti-gmo activist. To me it just looks more like the advocates are more invested in scientism than they are in helping anybody solve hunger. Hungry people need land and diverse agriculture.

    Spending many millions and many years to have more beta carotene in rice is like buying cadillacs for all the people in poor rural countries who have transportation problems – when what they need is roads and buses. I know that the motivation for golden rice is a good one – but to me it shows a lack of understanding of the complexity of the problem of hunger in the 3rd world. i reserve judgement until we see whether or not gr really does prevent blindness. I don’t think we know whether or not the beta carotene will survive storage and transport, since beta carotene has a tendency to oxidize rapidly (because the people it will be fed to will not be where it is grown – if they could grow their own rice they could grow other foods which have Vit a) – Nor do we know if the beta carotene will be oxidized in the gut instead of converted to Vit A, which requires fat. In fact, it’s theorized that the lack of fat in the diet may contribute to the Vit a deficiency as much as the lack of beta carotene (meaning: if there were more fat they could metabolize the beta carotene already available in other foods). Likewise, zinc deficiency may lead to an impairment of vitamin A metabolism. Providing one essential nutrient without all the accompanying nutrients needed to metabolize that nutrient is short-sighted.

    For all these reasons I remain only hopeful that gr will make a difference justified by the investment it’s garnered of money and scientific knowledge. Why is agricultural science so much less valued than expensive “magic bullet” technology? I can’t help the cynicism: golden rice is indeed the golden child of the biotech industry. And the PR that causes otherwise rational people to decry anti-gmo as “wicked, evil or death mongers” has been accepted by the skeptical community in many areas. This isn’t scientific.

    “It advocates for only a perfect solution, or none at all.”

    No. I’m advocating for solutions that maximize the value of the money and intelligence invested. Comprehensive attempts to deal with hunger. I’m suggesting that the time and money were ill-used. I don’t see the logic in something like: vit a supplements work and are cheap, but we seem to have trouble distributing them so lets take many years and many millions and develop rice that has beta carotene in it. Not addressing the lack of other micronutrients required to metabolize, not addressing the same lack of infrastructure that make the distribution of vit a or gr both problematic.

    The attitude seems to be: there are a lot of starving people who subsist on rice. a lot of them go blind. Let’s put beta carotene in the rice. Don’t you see a problem in the fact that many millions of people have nothing to eat but rice? Again, I remain hopeful that the gr will make a difference, but I see many reasons to remain skeptical. And as regards gmo: again, still, skeptical – due to my understanding of the science. if you understand the science differently, then we can discuss that of course. That would be the skeptical thing to do.

  32. Mlemaon 27 Oct 2013 at 4:41 pm

    ccbowers, you know, my goal is to try to share and advance what people know about the problems of transgenic foods. In light of that I think my post is a bit too confrontational? Sorry if that’s the case. I just sensed a certain condescension in your reply to my comment, and I reacted badly. At this point in the GMO discussion on this site, I’ve wrongly assumed that the many issues within this issue have been thoroughly sorted out. in reality I guess we still seem to be talking about GMOs at the very superficial level of opinion. So, we need to start there. So, it’s true: much public opinion is ill-informed. And likewise, much of the skeptical opinion is ill-informed IMHO.

  33. rezistnzisfutlon 27 Oct 2013 at 5:17 pm

    Mlema,

    I’ll try to address some of your arguments though there are many and I may not get to them all.

    To top it off, few who are in favor of GR regard it as a panacea that is going to fix all the problems of developing regions in the world. It’s design is only to address a single issue, which is a severe lack of vitamin A in these populations and the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, this greatly effects. It’s not intended to address actual the underlying issues of poverty. However, why not help relieve a major problem within these regions while we help them develop economically.

    The reason GR is held up in such high regard is because of what it represents, which is the utilization of a technology to help improve the quality of life for large populations in a safe and economical way.

    In essence, GM is one technology among many that can, and should, be leveraged to fix the many problems associated with modern agriculture.

    One thing that your posts seems to show concern for is gene flow (aka gene transfer). This is a legitimate concern when it comes to desired traits inserted into crops inadvertently cross-pollinates into similar wild species, which then adopts that trait. Keep in mind that this issue is also present in other forms of agriculture as well, not just GM. When a hybridized organic or standard crop is introduced, the same concern exists. The real questions are, what are the actual consequences, are they actually an issue, and if so, how can we mitigate them? Simply halting GM technology is not the solution since it’s universal phenomenon.

    Anyone who knows anything about evolution knows that whenever a change is introduced into an environment, this places selective pressures on organisms within that environment. This is true in any case when humans plant anything within the earth, no matter what it is. GM is no more or less different than any conventional or organic crop that is introduced into an ecosystem.

    Furthermore, whenever a hybrid is produced, changes are made to hundreds, if not thousands, of genes, most of which have unknown (potential) effects. At least with GM, we know exactly what is being placed and can predict with some degree of accuracy what the outcome will be. Add to that the pre-market testing that is done, a step that is NOT required for other crops, and we have a much greater degree of certainty regarding GE foods than non-GE foods.

    Looking at the Nature article you posted, and it’s interesting. However, all it expresses is that it’s possible that some genetic traits expressed in GE foods may get passed onto gut microbia. However, I’m not certain how this is different than any other plants or animals humans have been eating since the dawn of time. ANY food we consume has this same capability, not just GE foods. What more telling is that in the decades since GE foods have been on the market, no such issues have been noted in medicine or science.

    While it’s true that skeptical communities may exhibit some misinformation regarding GMOs, I’m sorry but that would be nowhere near what is propagated by the anti-GMO community. Skepticism by definition is self-correcting, and while even skeptics may be prone to biases and incorrect information just like anyone else, it is going to tend to be greatly reduced compared to the general population, especially in whole skeptical groups where people can check each other. So, the assertion that skeptical communities are just as misinformed is just plain wrong.

    Back to Golden Rice, while it may be a simple stop-gap in regards to addressing issues faced by indigent populations, it was never intended to attempt to fix their overall economic situation. Even that being the case, why deny them GR? Economic situations take years, perhaps decades, to change, and if we have tools in the meantime to help improve their lives, let’s give it to them. This is the same argument made by activists that they should be eating a more varied diet containing vitamin A rather than giving them GR. That is a non sequitur for one, and for another it expresses a gross ignorance of the issues faced by these people that makes that kind of sentiment akin to “let them eat cake”.

    Your argument that their diet isn’t varied enough to metabolize that micronutrient anyway is false, because it is contrary to the evidence.

    http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/89/6/1776

    Finally, yes, it’s true that activists have hampered the development and dissemination not just of Golden Rice, but of all GE foods, by physically vandalizing test crops and facilities, leveling threats toward people and property, systematically spreading misinformation, and creating an environment of misguided fear, paranoia, and hysteria. And yes, they should be ashamed because GR can be used to help many people, and they are actively hindering the effort.

  34. rezistnzisfutlon 27 Oct 2013 at 5:22 pm

    Unfortunately, many of the concerns expressed here are addressed in my earlier post that is tied up in moderation that contains links to publications, research, and regulating agencies. The gist of it is, like with climate change the overwhelming scientific and regulatory consensus is that GE foods are safe for consumption and there never has been incidences where health issues resulted from the consumption of GE foods. But, an overwhelming consensus does not mean 100% as there are dissenters, albeit a very small percentage. In my estimation, these people are deniers akin to climate change deniers and creationists.

  35. ccbowerson 28 Oct 2013 at 10:36 am

    “Spending many millions and many years to have more beta carotene in rice is like buying cadillacs for all the people in poor rural countries who have transportation problems – when what they need is roads and buses”

    Actually, it is nothing like that at all. Adding beta carotene to rice is almost the opposite of the cadillac example. Golden Rice was never intended to solve the world’s poverty, and your analogy seems to imply that the poverty problem is easier and cheaper than developing Golden Rice, which seems absurd. If that is not what you meant, then how does your analogy apply? Not only that, but the people who developed Golden Rice are not in the business of addressing the issues of poverty around the world, because that is not their specialty. Also, there is no option to just remove the money applied to one technology and put it towards another cause.

    To say that because there are systemic causes of poverty, it is wasteful to develop GMO technology is the ‘fallacy of relative privation.’ Just because poverty is a serious problem around the world doesn’t mean that we ignore everything else.

    “ccbowers, you know, my goal is to try to share and advance what people know about the problems of transgenic foods. In light of that I think my post is a bit too confrontational? Sorry if that’s the case.”

    Not at all. I thought that pointing out where I think your motivational reasoning is coming from might bother you a bit, but I think it is true, and was curious to see your response. I know that may read like an insult, but I don’t intend it to be. I think we all are pushed to one way of thinking versus another on certain topics, and we all like to think that we are less biased than we are. I don’t think you are too far off, but I do think your default stance on this topic is off, which skews your interpretation of the issue relative to mine. I think my stance is similar to Steve’s on the issue, and although he trying hard to be fair to the antiGMO side, he failed to come up with anything substantial (monoculture is a separate but related issue that is not specific to GMOs)

  36. rezistnzisfutlon 28 Oct 2013 at 11:22 am

    At this point in the GMO discussion on this site, I’ve wrongly assumed that the many issues within this issue have been thoroughly sorted out. in reality I guess we still seem to be talking about GMOs at the very superficial level of opinion. So, we need to start there. So, it’s true: much public opinion is ill-informed.

    What hasn’t been sorted out in the GMO discussion on this site are some common misconceptions regarding them. You are correct in that, among common laypeople, and especially anti-GMO activists, the conversation is very superficial because we haven’t gotten past the misconceptions and misinformation yet, which have largely developed from preconceived opinions. That’s one reason why Kevin Folta, the folks at Biofortified, and other scientists and skeptical bloggers spend so much time on correcting misconceptions, because there are real issues with agriculture that warrant serious conversation that aren’t being addressed as well as they could because of all the noise being generated by activists.

    IMO, it’s unfortunate that such a beneficial technology is met with this kind of response, but it also indicates that there are social issues that have to work themselves out as well, namely in educating the public. Many policy decisions are being made with bad information, and while this isn’t anything new, one hopes that some good information makes it through before things are taken to far. We’re seeing indications of this in Europe where there seems to be a reversal between the scientific community and regulating agencies, although they have already made many policy decisions based on some misinformation.

  37. DeadManTalkingon 28 Oct 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Hello; and let me throw in a couple words from an outsider. Hell, an uninformed outsider, at that.

    I’m more or less neutral on GMOs because A) I don’t know enough of the ramifications; and B) it’s simply one more technology, and technology is part of the human condition. I don’t care that people want their food labelled if it has GMO products within it. If people want that, fine. It’s absurd to fight that movement just because one thinks it meaningless or misdirected. So what? If people want it, people want it; there’s no cost to it, and one shouldn’t be so arrogant to decide for others what information they should or shouldn’t have, depending on one’s own evaluation of the worth of that information. It’s immaterial if the information is meaningless in one’s opinion. That’s not an argument about science; it’s an argument about rights.

    And the argument isn’t really about the value or dangers of Golden Rice or other GM plants. GR may or may not solve the problems it’s intended to solve; and whether or not it solves them depends on a host of factors, not the least of which is will it work as intended? The assumption that the blindness is caused only by vitamin A deficiency is, perhaps, simplistic; but, objectively, it’s worth a shot.

    It seems that the argument is not technical, but practical: which approach is more effective; where should one put one’s money? Is putting one’s money on finding a silver bullet for a narrow problem as effective as putting it where greater good can be done? It’s not that GR isn’t good or can’t ameliorate a problem, it’s whether the money spent to develop GR couldn’t have been better spent, if one’s goal was to eliminate blindness due to poor diet due to poverty? I think one of the objections was that the method chosen to help alleviate blindness was chosen so that vast amounts of money could go through an American mega-business developing that bullet; whereas the same amount of money spend restructuring poverty-struck societies might be much more effective in the long run for, not only relieving the blindness, but a host of other problems, as well.

    An argument being presented here seems to be that, even if GR isn’t a more global or perfect solution, that it shouldn’t be discarded because it does do good in the meantime. I.e. don’t throw out assistance simply because it’s not a perfect solution; and that’s definitely true. At the same time, though, if that is left unexamined, it will encourage a repeat in the future of spending the money meant to solve Third World problems by funneling it through large corporations; which is highly inefficient at solving the overall problem which is the income disparity caused by those large corporations, to begin with. A hard-and-fast maxim of American business is that there is no money in solutions, only in continually attacking problems; hence GR instead of reform.

    I agree, the majority of objections to GMOs are emotional and unrelated to the GMOs themselves. I agree that the objections are structural and not technical. That doesn’t make them invalid. Yes, the objections are to Monsanto and American agribusiness. Yes, the objections are to how corporate farming has been economically successful but socially disastrous, not to GMOs per se. Yes, these are displaced objections. But, if you’re arguing about the value of GMOs alone, your focus is too narrow. The analogy of GMOs solving blindness is like buying Cadillacs to solve transportation problems was a good, if not perfect, analogy. What that person was saying was that a holistic solution to the problems of poverty is needed, not a piecemeal approach that benefits corporations more than it does the Third World. It’s an example of attacking the problem but never solving it. Yes, GR attacks the problem; no, it does nothing towards solving it.

  38. PharmD28on 28 Oct 2013 at 12:41 pm

    I put this up on my facebook and an old buddy who is now in the navy simply posted:

    “you are not really in favor of GMO’s are you?!”

    an attempt to get past superficial points and generalities was unsuccessful.

  39. Steven Novellaon 28 Oct 2013 at 12:58 pm

    DMT – Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Let me address some of your points:

    Labeling – I think you have to consider the consequences of labeling, and not just take the position that more information is always better. Requiring labeling means that now the government has to spend money monitoring this (or else it’s useless). Is that a good expense of public funds, tracking which products have GM anywhere in the supply stream?

    Further, there is a great deal of information about our food products that could potentially be disclosed. There is insufficient room on any label to contain it all, so the information we require presumes that this information is more important than other information. That in itself sends a message – the government (and presumably experts) deem this information to be relevant to your purchase decision.

    This, in turn, could be misleading – an example of when giving more information misleads, by how that information was chosen. Unimportant information would also tend to drown out important information. This could quite literally lead to smaller and smaller type for product information that becomes harder and harder to read.

    Further, such labeling could seem like a warning, or could imply to the consumer that products without GM are superior, and this is false, and would likely have unintended consequences.

    This is also a false proxy issue. If the evidence shows GM is safe and approved for human consumption, and there are no health consequences, then labeling should not be required. This is an attempt to use labeling to frighten people when the science is not on your side.

    Regarding golden rice and how to spend our money, you are assuming a zero-sum game, and this is not a valid assumption. You are reasoning as if there is a pot of money we can spend and we have to choose how to spend it. While this is true for government money, this is not true in a free market. The money invested in developing golden rice was a free market investment, and was not taken away from any other program to reduce poverty or whatever. The flip side of this is that if companies did not spend that money to develop golden rice, that money would not have been freed up to fight poverty. So the point is just not valid.

  40. ccbowerson 28 Oct 2013 at 8:02 pm

    DMT-

    Actually, Steve did a great job with his response to your concerns, and I agree with his arguments very much, but I would like to elaborate on the labeling products issue. DMT, you are assuming that labeling is a good or neutral thing in your statement about labeling GMOs. The problem is that labeling is not a neutral action, particularly because we are talking about labeling requirements. Currently it is optional in the US to put GMO information on product labels, and I am wondering why you think the preference of a few is reason enough to require it for all, when the option to label is already there for those who want to advertise the presence or absense of GMO ingredients. If the government is requiring labeling, it should be for good reason, and not arbitrarily because some people want it, because there are downsides to labeling.

    For one, it puts a burden to define and monitor such labeling, not just for the government, but for anyone creating and selling the products and its ingredients. Admittedly this would be a small consideration if this were demonstrated to be important information, but… you are not even arguing that it is.

    Also, there is already a tremendous amount of required and unrequired information on food labels, so there is already a tremendous amount of “information noise”… it is already hard for a consumer to sift through information for ones that are relevant and important to read. If we are requiring more, shouldn’t we make sure that it is important and useful information?

    Let’s not ignore the implications of labeling requirements in terms of the message to consumers. It may become a ‘true but misleading’ label. If it becomes a requirement, then the label implies that that information is important (or else why would it be required?). It will then give the false impression that there is something inherently wrong or harmful or less desirable about GMOs (again, or why would it be required?)

    For all of these reasons (plus the ones Steve mentioned, and there are more I’m sure) we should not have labeling that is arbitrary. There are costs to such actions that are often not realize until one thinks about the unintended consequences

  41. rezistnzisfutlon 28 Oct 2013 at 9:17 pm

    Labeling foods as “Contains GMOs” or something along those lines is problematic. Foremost is that it doesn’t inform the consumer about the food in any way. Mandatory labels need to be informative and have a good reason for that information to justify it. In essence, a label is an official regulatory recognition that what is being portrayed on the label is legitimate and should be heeded. A “GMO” label would definitely serve as some sort of warning, because “why else would it be required?” (as ccbowers put it). In essence, it’s an implicit approval by the government for the reasons the label exists.

    When I hear that the consumers have a “right to know”, that is pretty much an empty platitude in this regard. In actuality, the consumer has a right to be informed in meaningful ways, meaning that the information should actually tell them something. In fact, the opposite would be true in the case of GMOs, because of the high amount of misinformation circulating about them, a label would reinforce much of this misinformation. Additionally, GM is not an ingredient, it’s a process like fertilizing, tilling, or irrigation are.

    Then we have the regulation, enforcement, and issues with logistics in keeping food stocks separate in order to preserve the label (which means doubling up on everything on the farmer’s and distributor’s end, from storage to transportation to packaging). There will be an associated cost with tracking and enforcing labels that would fall on regulating agencies and passed onto taxpayers, not to mention the cost borne on manufacturers for the labels. Furthermore, we then have separate, balkanized regulations from state to state that will likely have quite a bit of variety to the laws to contend with.

    All this for an arbitrary label that has no real informative value and no good reason for existing other than some people want it. This does not even speak to the myriad other “wants” other people may have on labels that have no real justification for existing.

  42. PythagoreanCrankon 28 Oct 2013 at 9:49 pm

    Wait, what are the issues with monoculture again? Everybody says “the issue of monoculture” but what does that mean?

    See: The problem with monoculture | Control Freaks http://ow.ly/qgzvG

  43. Mlemaon 29 Oct 2013 at 9:44 am

    rezistnzisfutl,

    thanks for explaining yourself so thoroughly. Perhaps if I respond in kind we will reach some common understanding.

    The plant patent act isn’t the same as the technology leases practiced by Monsanto.
    Glyphosate resistant weeds have developed in response to increasing use of glyphosate. The increasing use of glyphosate is a direct result of the intensive planting of resistant corn, cotton and soy – the crops supported almost exclusively by US farm subsidies (to the exclusion of the food crops the USDA says we should be eating more of). Corn, cotton and soy are mono- cropped – another practice of industrial farming. To encourage rotation and diversity, a farmer will have to forgo most financial assistance that would otherwise be given.

    When I am reading about transgenics, I like to be able to trace back the sources I use to help decide whether or not what I’m reading on sites like biofortified are, or are not, influenced by pro-industry factions.

    Here’s how financial influence plays out in the case of Golden Rice:
    the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation help fund GR development
    Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is heavily invested in Monsanto
    a number of biotech companies offer free technology
    Monsanto and other biotech benefit from success of GR with a big gmo PR boost and ease of regulations on other and riskier gmos – because if we don’t ease those regulations, now, instead of just being crazy anti-GMO people, we’re killing people who could be saved by gmos”

    It’s not substantiated to say: there are no people we can’t save without gmos.

    And speaking of gmos :) it’s incorrect to say that the breeding of transgenic organisms isn’t any riskier than other breeding.
    This graphic shows the relative risk of various types of breeding:
    http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10977&page=64

    the riskiest four methods comprise those we’re referring to when we talk about genetic engineering. And current safety testing doesn’t adequately address the risks they entail.
    Here is an article that addresses some of those risks:
    sensible regulations for GE food crops
    http://www.twnside.org.sg/title2/service221.htm

    continued…

  44. Mlemaon 29 Oct 2013 at 9:45 am

    And from a letter by the same scientist:
    http://www.stopogm.net/sites/stopogm.net/files/DifferentPerspective.pdf
    (regarding risks of gm foods) “…first, introduction of the same gene into two different types of cells can produce two very distinct protein molecules; second, the introduction of any gene, whether from a different or the same species, usually significantly changes overall gene expression and therefore the phenotype of the recipient cell; and third, enzymatic pathways introduced to synthesize small molecules, such as vitamins, could interact with endogenous pathways to produce novel molecules. The potential consequence of all of these perturbations could be the biosynthesis of molecules that are toxic, allergenic, or carcinogenic. And there is no a priori way of predicting the outcome…

    …The maintenance of a specific cell phenotype involves a very precise balancing act of gene regulation, and any perturbation might be expected to change the overall patterns of gene expression. The problem, as with secondary modifications, is that there is currently no way to predict the resultant changes in protein synthesis…

    …Given that GM plants will sometimes produce different amounts of proteins, and perhaps totally new proteins, as compared with the parental species, what are the possible results? A worst-case scenario would be that an introduced bacterial toxin is modified to make it toxic to humans. Prompt toxicity might be rapidly detected once the product entered the marketplace if it caused a unique disease, and if the food were labeled for traceability…However, cancer or other common diseases with delayed onset would take decades to detect, and might never be traced to their cause. Conversely, plant flavonoids and related molecules have great health benefits, and there is evidence that these can be depleted in GM crops.”

    The short piece I’ve just quoted expands on these risks. The prior link expands on what to consider in order to develop sensible regulations. They are both written by Dave R. Schubert, a highly respected scientist at the Salk Institute. Dr. Schubert has been attacked for writing criticism of GM foods. I don’t think we can say there is no pro-gmo movement – it’s one and the same with the industry’s PR. There are plenty of scientists willing to spin the research and write for blogs and social media in order to promote the technology that companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Ventria and others rely on for profits. The big money isn’t in advancing agricultural science, it’s in advancing patented technology which has great demand. GM food is such a technology – and it’s only tangentially related to agricultural science, of which you and i now have a growing knowledge.

    I think when it comes to GMOs, you can’t talk about a scientific consensus in the same way you do with global warming. We don’t have a lot of independent scientists assessing the value, validity and meaning of the research. And we have an industry that’s profiting from the technology. If there’s any consensus, it’s that there isn’t one! Also please see my next post to links on how some of the pro-gmo vs. cautious scientists battle is being fought.

    To me, once a person understands that we have no long-term epidemiological studies on transgenic foods, and that those foods do indeed present risks that are unique to that method of breeding, then the issue of labeling takes on more importance. My interpretation of the science says that labeling would be useful, although it’s utility is already greatly reduced by the fact that we’ve ben fed gm foods for years already.
    I guess I’m forced to take the stance of many gmo proponents: “here’s hoping!”

  45. Mlemaon 29 Oct 2013 at 9:54 am

    here are a couple of articles that chronicle the sort of venomous criticism leveled against scientists who publish papers with even the least amount of critical note regarding gm food crops:

    GM crops: Battlefield
    http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090902/full/461027a.html

    Box: Seeds of discontent
    http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090902/full/461027a/box/1.html

  46. Mlemaon 29 Oct 2013 at 10:22 am

    ccbowers:
    “I think we all are pushed to one way of thinking versus another on certain topics, and we all like to think that we are less biased than we are. I don’t think you are too far off, but I do think your default stance on this topic is off, which skews your interpretation of the issue relative to mine.”

    So, you recognize that everyone has bias except you. You know all about this issue and you know that you’re right and I’m “skewed”.

    You’ve said nothing to make be believe that you have a better-informed opinion than I do on this issue.

    It’s ridiculous to call yourself a skeptic and then say that I’m wrong to criticize the way all these millions of dollars were spent. You probably don’t even realize that gr apologetics like yours are a PR tool for the biotech industry, which has high hopes that gr will pave the way for public acceptance of even more relaxed regulations, and even riskier transgenics. GMOs are not as safe as conventional foods, and if you’re going to make pronouncements about the technology, you ought to understand what it is and what are its relative benefits and risks. The fact that you think you know what’s best for consumers to know or not know, so that they won’t be frightened or confused tells me you’re pretty sure you know more than most people about what’s true and beneficial. I don’t need the likes of you deciding what information I ought to have access to. If a Nobel Laureate suggests that long-term epidemiological studies might be warranted, but are impossible without any way to trace ingestion, what justification do you propose for not labeling? That it will confuse and frighten people? Boo hoo!

    “…your analogy seems to imply that the poverty problem is easier and cheaper than developing Golden Rice, which seems absurd.”

    Absurd, but true. Cheap, tried and true agricultural science has provided tools which can go a long way towards solving these problems – especially when supported by the kind of money invested in Golden Rice.

    Again, if you want to discuss the science, I’m happy to do that. I’ve provided links in my responses to others above.
    What I see is that when legitimate independent scientists raise concerns, every attempt is made to discredit them and obfuscate the science. Please see links in post immediately above.

  47. rezistnzisfutlon 29 Oct 2013 at 10:42 am

    “Venomous criticism” is pretty strongly opinionated wording. The criticisms were regarding the studies themselves, not the findings. The reason there were strong reactions is that poorly designed or implemented studies that produce results that are negative to GE only serve to provide fodder to anti-GMO activists.

    Academia is a harsh environment, and the shredding of studies and research findings commonplace. Researchers and scientists have to develop thick skins and view criticisms as opportunities to improve their research.

    On the other hand, I can see how some scientists may have become somewhat hypersensitive in the current political and ideological environment regarding biotech. Slight missteps in research, and even careless wording of legitimate research, can set the science back as it offers ammunition to anti-GMO activists, whether the research actually supports their claims or not. Even the authors of these studies admit they had serious flaws, so it’s important given the current environment that these criticisms exist.

  48. Mlemaon 29 Oct 2013 at 10:44 am

    oh, rezistnzisfutl,

    I almost forgot
    regarding the research you linked to on Golden Rice,
    http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/89/6/1776

    I’m curious about a couple of things:
    were the subjects chronically malnourished prior to entering the study?
    was the GR the only thing the subjects ate?
    will GR be served with 10 grams of butter when distributed to malnourished children?

    :)

  49. Mlemaon 29 Oct 2013 at 10:46 am

    oh, and if it is, the researchers should be aware that butter supplies Vit A

  50. Mlemaon 29 Oct 2013 at 10:47 am

    and fat which is required to utilize the beta carotene in GR

  51. rezistnzisfutlon 29 Oct 2013 at 11:15 am

    Mlema,

    You have made several factual claims that, as far as I can tell, simply aren’t supported by science, one in particular that ” GMOs are not as safe as conventional foods”. Do you have citations to back this up? I read through the links you included with your posts, and aside from one opinion piece, there isn’t much there to support this claim.

    One thing you don’t seem to understand about science is that there is nothing to test against the null hypothesis, that being that “GE foods are safe for human consumption.” Contrary to what is claimed by the authors of the blog posts you linked to, GE foods have gone through significant testing before reaching the public, far more than organic or conventionally grown foods.

    However, what is frequently demanded is that long-term epidemiological studies be performed on GE crops before release to the public, an demand that is extraordinary and unique in agriculture. There may be something to this if there were actual health issues that have arisen due to consumption of GE foods which may warrant further investigation. For instance, positive results to standard 90-day animal trials on safety and efficacy. As with any other field of research, including that dealing with pharmaceuticals, when animal trials produce negative results, there is generally no need for further testing.

    What seems to be the argument here is precautionary principle, when in fact what is being argued for is the Nirvana Fallacy. In the decades of use with no known ill effects as well as the numerous studies performed that have invariably turned up negative, there is little reason to suspect GE foods as well as the need for additional testing.

    Contrary to what is claimed, GE foods do require testing and are heavily regulated by the FDA, USDA, and the EPA. Seed companies must demonstrate basic safety and efficacy of their product before they reach consumers.

    As far as prior risk of GM foods compared to non-GM foods, responding to the NAS link you posted (thanks for that BTW), what is being disregarded is that there is potential for unintended outcomes, not risk. Furthermore, it entails an entire spectrum of potential genetic additions far outside what is used. This is what the current regulations exist for, to determine basic safety and efficacy of these types of crops.

    Incidentally, since the introduction of GE foods into the supply, there have been far more incidences of harm due to organic farming practices than with GE crops (which is, as far as we know, zero). It’s curious that similar safety regulations aren’t being demanded with a farming practice with known adverse health effects.

    The rest of your objections seem to lean on the side of conspiracy and issues with patents. For the claim that there aren’t many independent scientists working on GE crops, that’s just plain false. I included links in my first post indicating the widespread research being performed by many independent scientists from all over the world that have no links to industry. The scientific consensus is overwhelming, just like with climate change and evolution.

    The argument that that money could be better spent on improved agricultural practices really is a red herring. For one, research is also being done on this. For another, GE crops offer an additional tool in improving agriculture in impoverished regions. GE is one tool among many in that regard.

  52. rezistnzisfutlon 29 Oct 2013 at 11:23 am

    “I’m curious about a couple of things:
    were the subjects chronically malnourished prior to entering the study?
    was the GR the only thing the subjects ate?
    will GR be served with 10 grams of butter when distributed to malnourished children?”

    Sorry, but this is another red herring. The purpose of the study was simply to demonstrate whether GR can amply supply beta carotene to consumers, which was positive. It would be little different than giving participants sweet potatoes, or carrots.

    Whether or not these populations receive enough fat in their diets is also a red herring. Vitamin A is missing in their diets and GR exists ONLY to supply that vitamin A. If they aren’t getting enough fats, then that is a separate issue. Offering them GR in no way suppresses means or desires in addressing other issues, as you seem to be suggesting.

    “oh, and if it is, the researchers should be aware that butter supplies Vit A”

    May as well say ,”let them eat cake”.

  53. rezistnzisfutlon 29 Oct 2013 at 11:34 am

    Vitamin A supplementation has been occurring long before GR was introduced, and has proven to be highly effective in preventing blindness and death. GR is simply another alternative to this, and if allowed to persist as a local food crop, it would offer respite to populations suffering from deficiency.

    That vitamin A supplementation has been as successful as it has indicates that these populations as a general rule receive enough fats in their diets to promote its uptake. The problem with mere supplementation is the limited scope of use (typically the first 6 months of life, after which they are no longer offered). GR offers continued supplementation during the critical 6 years of life where mortality and blindness tend to occur most often.

  54. Collinon 29 Oct 2013 at 4:23 pm

    rezistnzisfutl,

    “Incidentally, since the introduction of GE foods into the supply, there have been far more incidences of harm due to organic farming practices than with GE crops (which is, as far as we know, zero). It’s curious that similar safety regulations aren’t being demanded with a farming practice with known adverse health effects.”

    This is interesting. Could you post a link providing details for this point: “there have been far more incidences of harm due to organic farming practices.”

    I’ve heard that organic farming practices (especially their techniques for developing new mutations) is riskier, but not that there were also incidences of harm.

  55. rezistnzisfutlon 29 Oct 2013 at 8:19 pm

    Collin,

    Here you go:

    http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2013/06/organic-hepatitis-a-outbreak/#.UmoVPBDUMcU

    http://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2012/O157H7-11-12/index.html

    These are just a couple of examples, a Google search yields many more results. The primary impetus for harm by organic seems to be the use of uncured mulch and manure commonly used as organic fertilizers. The reason this is an issue is because the use of mulch and manure is fairly unique to organic, and this practice tends to produce food-borne pathogens at a much higher rate. Furthermore, some of these pathogens can infect others who did not actually eat the tainted food.

    There is much about organic food production that has been hyped but is either simply untrue, or the opposite is true. That organic foods are safer is definitely one of them.

    Conversely, no health or safety incidences have ever been known to be caused by GM foods themselves, or in other words, caused by the genetic modification.

    Incidentally, no safety regulation or testing is done on organic or conventionally grown crops, even though they have had known issue and GM foods have not. The reason I point this out is that it’s irrational to demand testing on one crop type when similar testing is not done on other crop types, especially in light of the case history.

  56. ccbowerson 30 Oct 2013 at 12:15 am

    “So, you recognize that everyone has bias except you. You know all about this issue and you know that you’re right and I’m ‘skewed.’”

    Notice that I said ‘we all’ and ‘certain topics’ and ‘skewed relative to mine.’ But feel free to read into it what you like. I did not exclude myself as a person, but I do not think GMOs is a topic that I have an ideological interest in. If it weren’t for all the misinformation out there, it wouldn’t be a topic I’d comment on. The truth is that you have demonstrated on this blog, that you have strong opinion on this topic, which conflict with evidence over the past few years. I do not want to look into previous comments you have made here, but I don’t need to because you have made them right here:

    “You probably don’t even realize that gr apologetics like yours are a PR tool for the biotech industry, which has high hopes that gr will pave the way for public acceptance of even more relaxed regulations, and even riskier transgenics. GMOs are not as safe as conventional foods”

    Yes, I am a ‘PR tool.’ Followed by a slippery slope argument, followed by a ridiculous unsubstantiated claim. GMOs are not safe doesn’t even make sense, and is counter to the facts. Discussing GMOs broadly like this shows that your thinking is ideological.

    “The fact that you think you know what’s best for consumers to know or not know, so that they won’t be frightened or confused tells me you’re pretty sure you know more than most people about what’s true and beneficial. I don’t need the likes of you deciding what information I ought to have access to.”

    Notice I never said any of the above. I never said that I should be the one to determine anything, but if a label is required, that there should be good reason to require it in practice. That is a noncontroversial stance. I never said that you can’t have that information or that label should be banned. We have experts and regulators that should be determining whether these things warrant requirement.

    ” If a Nobel Laureate suggests that long-term epidemiological studies might be warranted, but are impossible without any way to trace ingestion, what justification do you propose for not labeling? That it will confuse and frighten people? Boo hoo!”

    Appeal to authority followed by reversing the argument. There should be justification for labeling requirements, NOT default labeling requirements unless justification can be provided for not labeling. That doesn’t even make any sense, unless you are taking an extreme stance on the cautionary principle for something you find unappealing.

  57. ccbowerson 30 Oct 2013 at 12:28 am

    Mlema,

    It appears that my words have angered you, and I realize that this is a touchy subject for you (not sure why, but that doesn’t matter), but I do not believe I am saying anything that controversial from the science or unreasonable from a broader perspective. I like this blog because many of the people who follow it are smart, but constructive people, to correct any errors in fact or my thinking. No one but you has objected to what I’ve said, and many have expressed similar sentiments including writer of this blog. I can only conclude that I have not said anything that off-base.

  58. Will Nitschkeon 30 Oct 2013 at 2:29 am

    What to do about the ‘sceptics’ who are adamant admirers and defenders of groups such as Greenpeace? These individuals tend to be noisy and rude, and tend to shout down actual sceptics on sceptical forums such as Skeptics Guide to the Universe. Not a good look.

  59. rezistnzisfutlon 30 Oct 2013 at 3:25 am

    ccbowers,

    Notice how it didn’t take long for the shill gambit to enter into the conversation…

  60. ccbowerson 30 Oct 2013 at 10:59 am

    Yeah, it did cross my mind that “PR tool” is pretty close to shill. It’s absurd though, since the checks that show up periodically in my mailbox are from Big Pharma, not Monsanto.

    Jokes, aside. I try to comment on this blog in a straightforward manner (except for the occasional joke or sarcasm). I don’t go out of my way to be inflammatory, but I do like to challenge arguments that I think are faulty. Mlema has generally handled arguments fairly reasonably for other topics, but for some reason this topic in particular seems to bother him. There is not much I can do about that. If he is going to put his thoughts out there, he should prepare to be challenged on those ideas.

  61. sonicon 30 Oct 2013 at 2:14 pm

    It seems the major problem for golden rice is that there isn’t a strain that has been shown to be effective for the purposes needed.
    http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php/news/archive/2013/15023-golden-rice-myths

    It sounds to me like there are real issues with this being of any value at all.

    I’m taking it as true- there are no studies that show golden rice can be used in the situations where it is being touted.

    Am I correct, and does that have anything to do with the current debate?

    ccbowers-
    An unpaid shill is called a ‘useful idiot’– not that you are one, but being unpaid doesn’t get you off the hook
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Useful_idiot

  62. ccbowerson 30 Oct 2013 at 3:50 pm

    “An unpaid shill is called a ‘useful idiot’– not that you are one, but being unpaid doesn’t get you off the hook”

    Yeah, I had a followup sentence in which I contemplated demanding compensation in order to be promoted from ‘useful idiot’ to ‘shill,’ but I deleted it (I couldn’t get the wording quite right). Thanks for bringing that up. At least that term has a positive adjective to modify the noun

  63. rezistnzisfutlon 30 Oct 2013 at 4:26 pm

    Sonic,

    Do you have anything to support your statements other than to another opinion activist site? As a matter of fact, your, and their, claim that GR is ineffective is simply wrong.

    For years, many within these populations have received vitamin A supplements, primarily to pregnant mothers and children for the first few months of life. Unfortunately, this has proven a limited and inconsistent resource, and does not help older children and adults. That’s where GR comes in.

    http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/89/6/1776

    This means that GR is, quite simply, as effective as a vitamin A supplement.

    One reason why there hasn’t been more distribution of GR isn’t because it’s ineffective, but because of anti-GMO activist groups and lack of political action. Activists groups have done everything they could to sabotage efforts, from spreading misinformation and fear-mongering to destroying test crops, vandalizing labs, and threatening researchers with physical violence.

    This is a travesty because it can be very beneficial if more people were allowed to get it.

  64. Mlemaon 30 Oct 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Here’s the problem with the study:
    Fat is required for utilization of beta carotene – Vit A. The target population lacks fat in their diet. The research you’re pointing to is done on healthy individuals. They don’t represent the target population. They have fat in their diet. AND – the golden rice was served to them with fat. BUTTER IS FAT AND IT HAS VITAMIN A. If the malnourished people ate brown rice with butter, they would not only have pro A from the hull of the rice, they’d have the fat they need to utilize it. They’d also gain necessary minerals from the hull. Why not spend 100$ to figure out a way to preserve the nutritious brown rice already in abundance? Since the hulls are currently removed in order to prevent the rice from turning rancid before it’s eaten. Do you know how much infrastructure and technology could be delivered to these regions for $100million? With GR all they’ll get is yellow rice with no hull that’s got beta carotene in it – which we don’t even know they’ll be able to utilize. In fact, if they can’t utilize it there’s a possibility it could adversely affect.

    So, again; THE PEOPLE WHO WILL BE EATING GOLDEN RICE WILL NOT HAVE 10% OF THEIR RICE MEAL AS BUTTER (FAT). This is a horrible study and I can’t believe this is what the researchers are basing their assessment of the effectiveness of GR on.

    Additionally, we don’t know if the beta carotene will still be abundant or available upon delivery, since it tends to oxidize. And the studies didn’t test this either.

    Actually, sonic’s link pretty thoroughly describes the issues there. Why don’t you take a few minutes and read it instead of just repeating your insistence that it’s “simply wrong”?

    “This means that GR is, quite simply, as effective as a vitamin A supplement.”

    You have absolutely no evidence that Golden Rice will be as effective as Vit A supplementation in preventing blindness in malnourished populations.

  65. Mlemaon 30 Oct 2013 at 6:34 pm

    of course I meant $100 MILLION, not $100

  66. ccbowerson 30 Oct 2013 at 7:30 pm

    “BUTTER IS FAT AND IT HAS VITAMIN A” (Mlema)

    That is a good, but small point. The vitamin A contribution of butter in the study is pretty small (approx 70ug per 10g serving of butter, which is about 5% of the vitamin A per rice serving used- the other 95% came from the rice). They probably should have used a cooking oil with no vitamin A, but given the small contribution of vitamin A, it’s not the end of the world.

    A small amount of fat is important for vitamin absorption (mostly fat soluble vitamins, but perhaps for others as well), so fat is used in the study to ensure that the variable of fat is not a counfounding variable by having it standardized, yet allowing for consistent absorption. To have no fat in the study would be problematic for other reasons, since people often eat rice with other foods. Your point is that in real life this is not controlled for, and many people in poverty will not have butter to add. Fine, so one requirement for preparation is that some fat should be incorporated – a small amount of any fat, e.g. oil should be sufficient for vitamin absorption.

    Keep in mind that this golden rice would be used as a food staple, so it is not intended to be a one time treatment for supplementation. The idea is that having this food being eaten regularly among the general population, it will prevent some/many people from deficiency. To say that it is not perfect because someone could eat GR with no fat is missing the point. Having this out there as a staple will have a broad effect by reducing the most significant of deficiencies as long as those people had access to the rice.

    “Why not spend 100$ to figure out a way to preserve the nutritious brown rice already in abundance? Since the hulls are currently removed in order to prevent the rice from turning rancid before it’s eaten. Do you know how much infrastructure and technology could be delivered to these regions for $100million?” (Mlema)

    Again you think you can just pick up money from one area and put it towards another area. If it were your money or you had control of it, then fine, but we are not talking about the best way to spend a big pool of money. This is not the correct way to think about it…

    I would explain further but Steve said it very well:

    “Regarding golden rice and how to spend our money, you are assuming a zero-sum game, and this is not a valid assumption. You are reasoning as if there is a pot of money we can spend and we have to choose how to spend it. While this is true for government money, this is not true in a free market. The money invested in developing golden rice was a free market investment, and was not taken away from any other program to reduce poverty or whatever. The flip side of this is that if companies did not spend that money to develop golden rice, that money would not have been freed up to fight poverty. So the point is just not valid.”

  67. Mlemaon 30 Oct 2013 at 8:13 pm

    The point about the fat is: the target population doesn’t have it. if they had the cooking oil you suggest they eat, that itself could be fortified.
    http://www.gainhealth.org/press-releases/fortifying-cooking-oil-vitamin-across-west-africa
    But yes, oil is a good idea. That is why I mentioned earlier that perhaps the biotech industry will supply some cheap gmo canola to help insure the success of GR.
    the study is flawed because it doesn’t take into account the fat and other micronutrients needed to metabolize the vit A precursor and whether or not those are present in the target population. Additionally, we don’t know if the betacarotene will survive the typically storage it must endure before reaching the people it’s intended to serve. And, if the people who eat it are unable to metabolize it due to chronic malnutrition, it could potentially be harmful. Please read the article sonic linked to. It explains all this.

    It is a zero sum game. The money and resources donated are not unlimited and, in my opinion should be allocated in a way that best serves the goal of preventing blindness. I think it could have been invested in better solutions.

    Why is so important to you that Golden Rice be above reproach?

  68. Mlemaon 30 Oct 2013 at 8:16 pm

    ccbowers, I highly recommend this article to you:

    The Problem with Nutritionally Enhanced Plants

    http://fbae.org/2009/FBAE/website/images/PDF%20files/False%20Propaganda/David%20Schubert-Problems%20With%20Nutirtionally%20Enhanced%20Foods.pdf

  69. Mlemaon 30 Oct 2013 at 8:18 pm

    especially the chapter on retinoids and plant secondary metabolism

  70. Mlemaon 30 Oct 2013 at 8:21 pm

    and you are correct to point out that my mentioning that butter has vit a has nothing to do with the problems of the study. it’s the fat content of the meal, provided by 10 grams of butter, that makes the research a horrible attempt to evaluate whether or not people who will never be eating 10 grams of saturated fat per day will be able to utilize golden rice for vit a

  71. Mlemaon 30 Oct 2013 at 9:21 pm

    ccbowers,

    “GMOs are not safe doesn’t even make sense, and is counter to the facts. Discussing GMOs broadly like this shows that your thinking is ideological.” – ccbowers

    Certain GM technologies carry risks that require evaluation which isn’t currently done. I’ve talked about specific technologies that are not safe, and I’ve shown why scientists say they aren’t safe. Actually I hope I didn’t say safe, because that’s a term that would be relative. Nothing I said is counter to the facts as I know and understand them. If my facts are wrong, or I’m not understanding them right – show me. Please don’t just say I’m ideological.

    “The only issue GM crops have is that they introduce a new product, and should be evaluated as perhaps a new cultivar is, the difference is that we have more specific information about how that new product is different.” – ccbowers

    A GM crop formed using biolistic transfer of rDNA from a distantly-related species, or an Agrobacterium transfer of rDNA from distant species, or, even moreso, mutation breeding, chemical mutagenesis or ionizing radiation, all carry a higher relative likelihood of unintended genetic effects than even similar methods when used between more closely related plants or varieties, or even species. To try to explain: it’s not necessarily always the method of breeding (except for Mutation breeding, or biolistic transfer of rDNA – which rank high in unintended effects no matter what organisms are crossed) it’s the distance between the relatives. It’s typically biolistic transfer that has brought us those GMOs which we hear about in the debate between anti- and pro-GMO. And although the plants bred with biolistic transfer provides specific traits, they have been shown to produce unintended, unpredictable and undesirable changes which are not discovered in safety evaluation, because we don’t look for them, and because in many cases we just don’t know enough yet to interpret what we are able to see. It’s impossible here to detail the complicated nature of the various sorts of changes which can and do occur. That’s why I’ve provided links to help describe what happens when we create new species in this way.

    So, not only do we NOT have more specific information about how that new product is different, we have less information about the more likely case, which is: unknown genetic change and the accompanying expression in the cell, and the effect on the organism. Toxins, novel proteins, missing nutritional components (with the possibility that we don’t even know about what those are, regardless of whether we currently have the ability to identify them or not)
    So, trangenics are very different from traditional breeding.

    For some reason unknown to me, “skeptics” like to say: “we shouldn’t be so overly cautious that we don’t take advantage of the technology to deal with hunger”. I’ve been unable to find any trait available exclusively in transgenics that’s not available through traditional or mas breeding – except for pesticide-producing or pesticide-resistance, which entail certain other difficulties. Speaking about science in general, I can think of a number of disasters which resulted from the attitude: “we can’t wait to take advantage of the technology”. Many independent scientists are saying that the technology should be utilized in strictly controlled environments with extensive evaluation of it’s results (as it’s currently used in medicine – unless we start widely growing plants that produce vaccines or human lactoferrin) If you don’t learn from the past, you’re destined to repeat it.
    If you will read the following, you’ll have a better appreciation of the issue:
    Sensible Regulations for GE food crops, by David Schubert
    http://www.twnside.org.sg/title2/service221.htm

    It’s naive to dismiss the role of money in this issue. IT patents have turned transgenics into lucrative products. Without a continuing and expanding market, there are no big profits. Part of the model is to create a favorable environment with regards to regulation, sales, and public opinion.

    “Anti-GMO people tend to dislike GMO as a category, due to ideological attachment to the naturalistic fallacy (or more general fear of technology or change).” – ccbowers

    That is quite possibly true. However, framing the discussion in terms of anti-gmo vs pro-gmo tends to distract from the science that should inform our decisions.

    “People who are “pro-GMO” tend to think of the category more in terms of what the technology can potentially do rather than being for GMO plants in general. It is clear to me who is letting their ideology do the thinking.” – ccbowers

    I guess maybe you’d be surprised how many people are for GMO plants in general. There’s ideology on both sides of this issue. You’re already familiar with the anti-gmo ones, which you’re able to list quite quickly. On the side of pro-gmo we have the techno-fix fallacy and scientism. We also have the profit motive. I honestly don’t think you exhibit any particular ideology, but I think when you promote the idea that gmos aren’t essentially different from traditionally bred plants, you tend to support the pro-gmo ideologies.

  72. Mlemaon 30 Oct 2013 at 9:46 pm

    here’s a graphic that might help in visualizing the “Relative likelihood of unintended genetic effects associated with various methods of plant genetic modification.”

    http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10977&page=4

  73. ccbowerson 30 Oct 2013 at 11:08 pm

    “So, not only do we NOT have more specific information about how that new product is different, we have less information about the more likely case, which is: unknown genetic change and the accompanying expression in the cell, and the effect on the organism.”

    What I was referring to is: when an organism is genetically modified by people, it is done in a highly targeted systematic fashion, and is studied in various ways. Sure not every possible senario can be known, but that is an unreasonable standard. When genetic modifications occur by “mother nature” we may not even know that they are occuring at the time and place that they occur and they are not specifically studied. You seem to think that a targeted approach that is highly sctrutinized is more dangerous than an untargeted approach that is completely unknown.

    “On the side of pro-gmo we have the techno-fix fallacy and scientism. We also have the profit motive. I honestly don’t think you exhibit any particular ideology, but I think when you promote the idea that gmos aren’t essentially different from traditionally bred plants, you tend to support the pro-gmo ideologies.”

    I like this quote the most. I agree that there people who may be overly optimistic (I even mentioned this above myself), but that does not appear to be detrimental to their understanding of the facts. In other words, these relatively small biases by proGMO side are not ideologies in the sense in that they do not result in significant motivated reasoning. Some people do like technology and maybe have unrealistic expectations of technological fixes, but they adjust over time because their ideas get corrected by the facts over time. They will see the rate of actual change, and will adjust. I do not think scientism is relevant here other than the possible excessive optimism regarding technology for some, because otherwise it is a vague empty criticism for this topic.

    The profit motive is a consideration, but that is true more generally in every industry. We can’t let that bias us against the science, just because we are suspicious of greed We just have to be aware of that motivation, and the good and bad that come from it. This is where regulation is important to help align and balance the public good with the motivation for profit. On the otherside, the perception of the profit motivation is causing antiGMO people to venture into denial

  74. rezistnzisfutlon 30 Oct 2013 at 11:54 pm

    Unfortunately, I don’t have time to make a detailed post addressing many specific claims, but I will expand on what ccbowers went into.

    The “profit motive” point is one that is present in all industries, including organic. Case in point: Organic made nearly five times the revenue that biotech made in the past year. Projections put estimates close to nine times what biotech will make by 2015, and twice what it is now.

    Biotech:
    http://www.transparencymarketresearch.com/organic-food-market.html

    Organic:
    http://www.transparencymarketresearch.com/organic-food-market.html

    Again, this is an instance where a claim made against GM is irrationally applied since it’s also true of other industries, including the vaunted Organic.

    It’s a strawman that those who support GMOs think that they are some sort of panacea that is going to cure all the world’s ills. Nearly everyone who supports GMOs realizes that it’s merely one tool in the box that can be applied and that there are many other technologies, methods, and practices that can, and should, also be leveraged. Limiting biotech is senseless if it can aid in this effort.

    No one here said that GE crops aren’t different – they have non-native genes inserted into them. What is being said is that, given the massive amounts of research past and present, and given the current level of regulation, there is no reason to be particularly fearful of them.

    What we’re dealing with here is denialism, because the science on GMOs is settled. The accusation of scientism is an ad hominem because it does not address any specific arguments. What else are we to rely on besides science and solid evidence?

    Anyone who has any understanding of science realizes that science is provisional. However, given the strength and amount of evidence supporting biotech, the lack of evidence indicating harm after decades of use, the lack of prior probability of harm within the science, and the known benefits, it’s actually foolish to raise irrational fear. Yes, we’re going to always be vigilant about risks and address issues as they arise.

    What we do tend to resist is the misinformation based fear-mongering that seems to pervade the anti-GMO movement. There are real issues with agriculture that aren’t being addressed because of this, and that’s what the problem really is.

  75. Mlemaon 31 Oct 2013 at 12:33 am

    ccbowers

    “…when an organism is genetically modified by people, it is done in a highly targeted systematic fashion, and is studied in various ways.”

    that’s true. But the way it’s done, and what it’s done to, determines whether or not there will be many or few unwanted consequences. And the various ways it’s studied aren’t ways that will necessarily detect those consequences in each case.
    http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10977&page=4

    “Sure not every possible senario can be known, but that is an unreasonable standard.”

    If we can’t know every possible scenario, and one of those scenarios turns out to be an extremely serious one, what is a reasonable standard? Think drug approval. We can’t just test against the parent plant for equivalency. It’s doesn’t reflect the proportionate risk of the technology. We have available many means by which we can evaluate safety. And if we can’t find a means that is required by the nature of the risk, we need to back off until we do. If you don’t have a way to test whether or not your meat will be cooked to a temperature required to make it safe, you get one and THEN you cook the meat.
    http://www.twnside.org.sg/title2/service221.htm

    “When genetic modifications occur by “mother nature” we may not even know that they are occuring at the time and place that they occur and they are not specifically studied.”

    In mother nature we would rarely (if ever?) suddenly encounter a trans-kingdom transfer. There is little risk of the kind of unwanted change that can occur in a biolistic transfer of rDNA.

    “You seem to think that a targeted approach that is highly sctrutinized is more dangerous than an untargeted approach that is completely unknown.”

    New breeds should always be assessed for safety. But when you cross species that are only distantly related, and you use methods known to cause mutagenesis (some methods of GE are actually used BECAUSE they cause mutations) and then don’t scrutinize in a way that is appropriate in light of the risk, and don’t look for the kind of changes you don’t want to see, you’re increasing your chance of some sort of calamity. You still seem to be saying that conventional and GM (those technologies specified earlier) are the same, except GM is more targeted. At this point all i can do is say again: they’re not. And they do not present the same rate of occurrence of unintended, unpredictable and unwanted consequences.

    “In other words, these relatively small biases by proGMO side are not ideologies in the sense in that they do not result in significant motivated reasoning.”

    I have witnessed motivated reasoning on the part of proGMO people.

    “Some people do like technology and maybe have unrealistic expectations of technological fixes, but they adjust over time because their ideas get corrected by the facts over time. They will see the rate of actual change, and will adjust.”

    Maybe. Or find something else to be unrealistically optimistic about.

  76. Mlemaon 31 Oct 2013 at 1:04 am

    rezistnzisfutl,
    I think you’re comparing apples and oranges. If you compare money in organic foods and money in gm crops, that would be a better comparison. But I don’t see how that either would reflect on the profit motive in the biotech industry when it comes to disseminating misleading information. Are you saying that the organic food industry is disseminating misleading information? They probably are. Why don’t you post some of it – it would probably be amusing :)
    I have no doubt that there are high motivations based on profit motive in both sectors. That’s why we have to instead evaluate the science in an unbiased way.

    There are highly respected independent scientists who are suggesting that we do need to be cautious with regards to the proliferation of GE crops, for a number of reasons, including environmental and health. Those same scientists are saying we need to strengthen regulation, which suggests that the level of current regulation is inadequate in light of the inherent risk of some of the technologies.

    http://www.twnside.org.sg/title2/service221.htm

    I hope you didn’t think I was accusing you of a techno-fix or scientism attitude. I was trying to point out to ccbowers that there is ideology on both sides of this issue. There are indeed people on the pro-gmo side that engage in misinformation, misinterpretation, slander, etc. for no other reason than to spread the ideology that we can’t meet our food requirements or pest problems without gmos, and that they’re as safe as more conventional forms of breeding. That’s as much of an ideology as: gmos are unnatural frankenfoods being used to kill people. When you’re strongly invested in an ideology, it’s almost impossible to think critically about the representative viewpoint. So if you act in strong defense to either of these, there’s a chance you’re an ideologue.

    And of course since I’m a person, I will inevitably have some sort of ideology. I’m not reacting at this moment to anything I said about either gmo ideology. But since i said them both, i have to recuse myself :)

  77. ccbowerson 31 Oct 2013 at 9:49 am

    “Maybe. Or find something else to be unrealistically optimistic about.”

    Yes they probably will, but notice that by ‘finding something else’ they have actually adjusted their attitudes towards that original topic. That is the key, being able to adjust to new evidence. This is why I find this type of bias different (and less problematic) that those who are ideologically committed to a particular outcome.

    If your stance is GMOs are ‘bad,’ and the science accumulates that these concerns are unfounded, then there is motivation to deny the science. If your stance is that a particular technology will solve all problems, and it doesn’t solve all the problems, there is not that same level motivation to deny those facts. This is probably because there is not the same attachment to that particular piece of techology.

  78. sonicon 31 Oct 2013 at 1:44 pm

    rezistnzisfutl-
    There haven’t been any tests that demonstrate the rice can be grown and used in the situations for which it is being touted.
    Find one.
    It does look like there is an attempt in the Philippines, but it looks like vandals messed that up. :-(

    What science regarding GMO’s is ‘settled’?

    Mlema-
    The control group needs to get the same pad of butter with lunch as the group understudy– we are testing the rice, not the butter– right? (I think that is standard protocol- treat each subject exactly the same except for the thing being tested…)
    Perhaps not noticing this is an example of what happens when your reasoning gets motivated. :-)

    I wish I could find a site that documents the situation as well as the one I linked to– I knew it would be discounted due to the ‘activist site’ label. No reading comprehension whatsoever once the label is placed.

    Apparently something called the ‘naturalistic fallacy’ descends upon people and makes them immune to evidence.
    Apparently the promise of billions of dollars of in profits helps clarify one’s vision.

    ccbowers-
    If you need help with the compensation committee- I’ll verify your usefulness as an idiot. :-)
    I believe it has been demonstrated there aren’t any tests that show this rice is useful in actual fact.
    I have looked long and hard- no golden rice has ever been grown and fed to anyone under the conditions for which it is being touted.
    I believe that any idea otherwise is an example of ‘motivated reasoning’– wouldn’t you?

  79. Mlemaon 01 Nov 2013 at 6:57 am

    sonic,

    “The control group needs to get the same pad of butter with lunch as the group understudy– we are testing the rice, not the butter– right? (I think that is standard protocol- treat each subject exactly the same except for the thing being tested…)
    Perhaps not noticing this is an example of what happens when your reasoning gets motivated.”

    sonic, are you suggesting I didn’t notice that all the study participants were given butter with their rice?
    What I first noticed about the study was: all the participants were healthy (not chronically malnourished). What I second noticed was: all the participants were given 10 grams of butter with their rice (the target population is unlikely to be eating that much saturated fat daily, let alone one that is a source of Vit A – the very nutrient we’re trying to increase)

    In order for a person to convert beta carotene to Vit A, a number of other nutrients need to be present. One of them is fat. A healthy person has some fat readily available. Chronically malnourished people don’t. By feeding butter to the participants, the study helped insure that the beta carotene in these already healthy individuals would be converted to Vit A. I also said that butter has Vit A. The researchers were careful to make sure that the measurements taken reflected only Vit A converted from the beta carotene in GR. There is no question that the GR increased Vit A in those who ate it in the study. In my first reply to rezistnzisfutl, I was trying to point out that, by feeding participants butter with their rice, the research is invalid as a way to determine whether or not GR will benefit the target population. If the target population was eating just plain old rice, but served with 10 grams of butter, they would be gaining fat and Vit A in their diets.

    ccbowers rightly pointed out that 10 grams of butter wouldn’t supply a lot of vit a. I didn’t think that rezistnzisfutl even realized that butter contained vit a and that’s why I pointed it out – but since the amount is not significant, the presence of Vit A in the butter was irrelevant to my criticism of the study.

    I wrote:
    “…the study is flawed because it doesn’t take into account the fat and other micronutrients needed to metabolize the vit A precursor and whether or not those are present in the target population. Additionally, we don’t know if the betacarotene will survive the typically storage it must endure before reaching the people it’s intended to serve. And, if the people who eat it are unable to metabolize it due to chronic malnutrition, it could potentially be harmful.”

    I should not have said the study is flawed. There is technically nothing wrong with the study if we just want to test whether or not golden rice can increase vit A levels in healthy individuals who are not underweight, malnourished or lacking fat in their diets.

    what IS flawed is: using the study to determine whether or not GR will increase vit a levels in the target population.

    Another problem that I see with the testing of Golden Rice is that we haven’t learned whether or not the beta carotene in it will be a problem if it’s not effectively converted to Vit A. Although I mentioned this, I was reluctant to expand upon it because it’s rather complicated. But I’ve decided to take a stab at it in this next post:

  80. Mlemaon 01 Nov 2013 at 6:59 am

    The following is a liberal mixture of paraphrasing and quotes. Please don’t try to take this as a completely accurate assessment. If you want to criticize anything Dr. Schubert is saying, you must read his article first. I encourage anyone to read it anyway because it covers much more than Golden Rice. (that is if you’re interested in learning about some of the problems that confound the development of Nutritionally Enhanced Plants

    The Problem with Nutritionally Enhanced Plants, by David Schubert, Salk Institute, La Jolla, California
    http://fbae.org/2009/FBAE/website/images/PDF%20files/False%20Propaganda/David%20Schubert-Problems%20With%20Nutirtionally%20Enhanced%20Foods.pdf
    Dr. Schubert is a Nobel Laureate who works with the basic technology used to make transgenic plants

    The conversion of beta carotene to Vit A is an example of secondary metabolism. Unlike in animals, secondary metabolism in plants can synthesize thousands of nonessential, small molecules. The regulation of the synthesis and structure of these phytochemicals remain largely mysterious.

    The enormous repertoire of phytochemicals is due in part to the fact that they are synthesized by enzymes with very low substrate specificity whose amounts and specificities are unpredictably altered by the types of mutations and pleiotropic effects associated with GM technology.
    A National Academy of Science advisory panel on GM food safety concluded that the genetic engineering of a biosynthetic pathway “raises the potential for unintended changes in the chemical composition of the resulting food” and “could lead to an increased concentration of catabolic products”

    For example, potatoes engineered to accumulate zeaxanthin have an unexplained threefold increase in vitamin E (the article speaks about the problems with that in its conclusions)

    Retinoids are a family of compounds.
    These are the best-studied:
    Vit A (retinol)
    retinal
    retinoic acid

    Upon ingestion, beta carotene is cleaved by a dioxygenase to generate retinal for vision.
    Retinal is also reduced to Vit A, or oxidized to retinoic acid
    retinoic acid interacts with highly specific nuclear receptors

    All of the biological activity of retinoids, except for vision, involve retinoic acid.
    Retinoic acid is biologically active at concentrations several orders of magnitude lower than Vit A
    So, excess retinoic acid or its derivatives are exceedingly dangerous – particularly to infants and during pregnancy
    retinoic acid and synthetic derivatives of retinoic acid are teratogenic (cause birth defects) and can accumulate in plasma and fat – causing a continuing risk factor
    multiple doses of retinoids have a greater toxicity than a single high dose

    It’s difficult to ingest enough beta carotene to cause toxicity
    but retinoic acid and its derivatives are directly assimilated, and because of the type of biological functions controlled by low levels of retinoic acid, any perturbation of its signaling pathways by plant-derived retinoic receptor agonists or antagonists will have clinical consequences

    (The next part I’m copying verbatim because it’s pretty concise:)

    To produce beta carotene in rice endosperm, genes for enzymes that convert geranylgeranyl diphosphate to beta carotene with high efficiency were transfected into plants. Six hundred naturally occurring compounds exist in the carotene family, and at least 60 can be precursors to retinoids.

    Plant enzymes involved in carotenoid metabolism have homologies to human enzymes, including the oxygenase required for the cleavage of carotenoids to retinoids in the gut. Therefore, plants have the potential to make many potentially harmful retinoid-like compounds when there are increased levels of synthetic intermediates to beta carotene as in golden rice.
    It is well known that the accumulation of a biosynthetic intermediate will lead to the synthesis of new compounds by broad-specificity plant enzymes. While all retinoids and derivatives are likely to be teratogenic, good assays and information regarding the behavioral and teratologic activity are available for only three: retinol, RA, and retinal. Therefore, extensive safety testing should be required before the introduction of golden rice as a food.

    and under conclusions: (…)

    (1) Compounds structurally related to a common small molecule can have a lethal effect when present as even a minor contaminant in a food sup-
    plement. (2) The GM enhancement of a metabolic pathway by the overexpression of genes for that pathway can have unpredictable consequences in the form of synthesizing a toxin. (3) Finally, in the case of golden rice, it is argued that biologically active compounds derived from aberrant plant carotenoid synthesis could have profound effects on human development.

    And more generally (still under conclusions)

    The information presented here shows that not only the potential harm of the product should be considered for risk assessment, but the GM process itself. The data clearly invalidate the argument that “the regulatory trigger for risk assessment should be based upon the physical features of the product rather than the process by which the product was generated.” While it is true that traditional breeding methods can give rise to potentially hazardous products, the most recent assessment of GM food safety by the National Research Council stated that GM “has a higher probability of producing unanticipated changes than some genetic modification methods” (p. 118), but it curiously concludes by stating that the risk of GM technology is no greater than conventional breeding methods. There are, in fact, no data comparing the food safety profiles of GM versus conventional breeding, and the ubiquitous argument that since there is no evidence that GM products make people sick, they are
    safe (see, for example, McHughen and Smyth, Bradford et al.,and Miller et al.) is both illogical and false. There are, again, simply no data or even valid assays to support this contention. Without proper epidemiological studies, most types of harm will not be detected, and no such studies have been conducted. The necessity of labeling all GM products and particularly NEPs is therefore critical if there is any hope of monitoring adverse health consequences due to their consumption.

    It follows that before NEPs producing biologically active molecules such as beta carotene, omega-3 fatty acids, or vitamin E are introduced into the food chain, great care must be taken to do rigorous, multigenerational animal safety assessments with the hope of identifying risks to health (for methods, see, for example, the 2007 publication by the National Toxicology Program and Pusztai and Bardocz). In
    addition, the products must be labeled and traceable, and the unpredictable and unintended metabolic changes that may occur in NEPs require the thorough testing of the entire edible portion of the plant, not just the designated product as is almost always done by biotech companies.

    To date there is essentially no multigenerational animal safety testing published for GM plants and no required labeling in the United States for any GM product. In an excellent review of our current GM regulatory process, Mandel concluded that for second-generation GM products, like NEPs, “it is necessary to establish a comprehensive, efficient and scientifically rigorous regulatory system.”

  81. Mlemaon 01 Nov 2013 at 8:51 am

    ccbowers,

    whatever. If you want to believe that one type of ideologue is “less problematic” than another, that’s your business. I see no evidence that pro-gmos are any less likely to deny the facts than anti-gmos. No one likes to let go of their beliefs. You and I are no exception. That’s why I’d rather talk about the science than try to construct some measure by which people can be grouped and labeled.

  82. Hosson 01 Nov 2013 at 9:13 am

    “Dr. Schubert is a Nobel Laureate who works with the basic technology used to make transgenic plants”

    He is not a nobel laureate, unless the find command for his name messed up while I was looking at a list of all the nobel laureates.

  83. ccbowerson 01 Nov 2013 at 10:34 am

    “ccbowers, whatever.”

    Good argument.

    What I said is correct. An ideology committed to a particular outcome is more problematic. That is the nature of ideologies. Everyone may have biases, but they are not all equally detrimental to understanding. Even a simply google search will demonstrate this very easily. Search GMOs and you’ll see the natural news website, mercola, Huffpo articles, etc etc promoting misinformation and fear mongering. Where are the analogues to these on the other side?

  84. ccbowerson 01 Nov 2013 at 11:31 am

    Hoss. You are correct. David R Schubert is not a nobel laureate, despite Mlema repeating that he is. Not that it matters. Such things have no bearing on the arguments and evidence, which should be evaluated on their own merits and value. But in this case, it’s ‘not even’ irrelevant since he is not a Nobel laureate

  85. sonicon 01 Nov 2013 at 1:59 pm

    mlema-
    My mistake about the butter- a rather lazy one and blatant… Oops– I’m corrected. Thank-you.

    The explanation about the difficulties with GMO’s and vit. a specifically is good.
    It seems Dave Schubert studied with a Nobel Laureate– not that he is one–
    http://www.salk.edu/faculty/schubert.html

    Your use of ‘whatever’ is delicious. :-)

    ccbowers-
    On the ‘other side’ we have people saying that the opposition to golden rice is ‘wicked’ and a ‘crime against humanity’.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/new_scientist/2013/10/golden_rice_inventor_ingo_potrykus_greenpeace_and_others_wicked_for_opposition.html

    I always enjoy the subtle type of argument, designed to cause rational thought and dealing with the subtleties of the situation- “If you are against us you are EVIL!”
    ;-)

    It seems we have a marketing situation- people around the world rejecting GMO’s as food (Europe and Asia). It seems the current marketing strategy is to vilify the opposition- making them out to be ‘wicked’ for wanting all these children to suffer.

    When one is ‘saving the world’ (and GMO’s are here to do that- right?) the reasoning can get motivated rather ferociously.
    Just my observation.

    Hoss-
    Correct, see the link to his resume above.
    (And, as ccbowers points out, it really isn’t a big deal one way or the other here.)

  86. BillyJoe7on 01 Nov 2013 at 4:46 pm

    From sonic’s link:

    “AC: The U.K. environment minister, Owen Paterson, has now weighed in to this debate by describing opposition to golden rice as wicked. Is this a moral tipping point that will potentially win emotional support for golden rice?
    IP: Unfortunately, there’s an enormous majority against genetic modification in Europe, so the brave U.K. minister will have lots of enemies. But he deserves support from wherever possible. I’m optimistic we’ve maybe reached a tipping point in Britain, and that’s something. But I’m not confident the “wicked” accusation will change the attitudes of Greenpeace supporters in Europe. Even Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore now supports golden rice and has accused Greenpeace of crimes against humanity for opposing it, but no one cares”

    So, we have a UK environment minister describing opposition to golden rice as wicked, and the Greenpeace founder accusing Greenpeace of crimes against humanity, an we have the co-inventor of GR in around about way agreeing with their sentiments after being asked a direct question by the interviewer.

    As usual, his link does not quite say what he wants it to say. |:

  87. Mlemaon 02 Nov 2013 at 4:29 am

    Thank you to those who pointed out my error re: David Schubert being a Nobel Laureate. For sure that must have come off an anti-GMO page. Dirty rotten liars. Sorry I was taken in. Didn’t mean to mislead you. But I have to admit I’m more ashamed when I remember how I felt – discovering him to be a Noble Laureate: “Ah! Perhaps those who are impressed with such things will finally address what’s being said!”
    My humility is intact :)

    Dr. Schubert has been castigated by industry-biased scientists for his reservations re: GMOs. What do you think about what Dr. Schubert says regarding Golden Rice and other nutritionally-enhanced foods? (The other part of his credentials, about his everyday work, is verifiable.)
    http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090902/full/461027a/box/1.html

    What do you think about the current state of regulation?
    Do you think his recommendations are sound? Viable?

    There are many other scientists who question current safety protocols as well.

    It’s interesting how the Golden Rice website has a page on regulation, which seems to read as a big complaint about how it’s so difficult. Honestly, it’s like they’re crying and complaining because they had to do so many tests! I, for one, am glad that Golden Rice has received so much attention and that it’s success is so important to the industry. I feel somewhat more assured that at least the testing we currently have available was utilized in this case. But reading the regulatory page, i just don’t know. My sincerest wish is that once we have a suitable variety of GR, it will do exactly what it’s designed to do and nothing more. And the investment of reputation by the biotech industry encourages me that there will be oversight and additional support supplied to the target population, to ensure success.

  88. Mlemaon 02 Nov 2013 at 4:35 am

    ccbowers:
    “What I said is correct. An ideology committed to a particular outcome is more problematic. That is the nature of ideologies. Everyone may have biases, but they are not all equally detrimental to understanding.”

    I wish everyone would preface their comments with a statement as to whether or not they’re correct. But the skeptic in me can’t just say “if you say so” :( I see a commitment to outcome in both pro- and anti-GMO ideology. So, if commitment to outcome is more problematic, then both ideologies are more problematic than no ideology. Correct?

    “Even a simply google search will demonstrate this very easily. Search GMOs and you’ll see the natural news website, mercola, Huffpo articles, etc etc promoting misinformation and fear mongering. Where are the analogues to these on the other side?”

    The analogues on the pro-gmo side are biotech publications and websites that serve as fronts for the industry . You probably don’t recognize them as such because they’re very science-y. A helpful hint: while anti-gmo sites have pictures of people in hazmat suits and gas masks, the pro-gmo sites have friendly little cartoon characters of RR corn or bt cotton. Or, for more sophisticated people like you and me, there may be graphics of healthy looking farmers in lush fields of corn, or scientists smiling at us from behind microscopes (which everyone recognizes as science). They may have broad generalizations like: gmos are safe, they’ve improved our lives, and we need them or people will continue to suffer.
    Both sides also paint their opponents as evil.

    One exercise to do to determine which ideology is more problematic is think about: what could be the worst that would happen if the anti-gmos got their way vs what could be the worst that would happen if pro-gmos got their way. It’s pretty easy to see the harm in anti-vaccine, anti-medicine, or even anti-science in general. But what exactly do we lose if we stop planting GMO food crops? What do we gain?
    What do we gain if gmo crops continue to supplant traditionally bred crops? What do we lose?

    I think the questions to ask going forward might be something like: can we utilize this technology safely and how do we do that? Is it possible to have better research and public oversight, uncorrupted by industry influence, so that we can ensure maxim benefit from these technologies, and prevent economic and personal harm?

    If your belief is: no, it’s too risky, or: we’re already using it safely, I think maybe you have preconceptions about it.

  89. sonicon 02 Nov 2013 at 10:29 am

    Not exactly about golden rice specifically, but it does go to the issue of the truth about these products-

    I’m not sure if the ‘union of concerned scientists’ is a good source, but they claim Monsanto misrepresents the value of what they are doing-

    http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/genetic-engineering/monsanto-fails-at-improving.html

    Pretty much says all the pro-GMO claims made by Monsanto are less than true.

  90. ccbowerson 02 Nov 2013 at 11:49 am

    “Thank you to those who pointed out my error re: David Schubert being a Nobel Laureate. For sure that must have come off an anti-GMO page. Dirty rotten liars.”

    You were probably misled by the salk.edu website, which is formatted in a way that is misleading. Under ‘education,’ they have ‘Nobel Laureate’ on one line and ‘Francois Jacob’ on the next line. I’m not sure what that is supposed to mean (Francois Jacob is a Nobel Laureate), but it sure looks like they are saying Schubert is Nobel Laureate when he is not. I suppose that he may have been a post doc fellow with Fracois Jacob, but the way it is displayed implies something different. Nice try to blame the ‘other side’ though.

    “I wish everyone would preface their comments with a statement as to whether or not they’re correct. But the skeptic in me can’t just say “if you say so””

    I said that in response to ‘whatever,’ which is a term that people use when they have no reponse.

    “So, if commitment to outcome is more problematic, then both ideologies are more problematic than no ideology. Correct?”

    Yes, but like I said, there is not equivalence on both sides.

    “The analogues on the pro-gmo side are biotech publications and websites that serve as fronts for the industry . You probably don’t recognize them as such because they’re very science-y.”

    Marketing is not the same as an idelogical movement. Show me some websites that are full of misinformation as Mercola or Natural News, that promote GMO with fear and propoganda. To mention marketing as the counter side is not the same, since marketing is not done by the people in the general population, but is a way industries communicate about their products and themselves. No one said that marketing is about education, and people (even many children) understand that marketing is intended to be positive information only and is misleading by its very nature.

    But if you have any good examples, I’ll be glad to take a look if they are full of misinformation and misleading. I just mentioned just 2 of the huge ones with antiGMO propoganda, and there are many many other examples that I’m sure you are aware of. If there was an analogue on the other side, it shouldn’t be hard to find. THere should be dozens, right?

  91. sonicon 03 Nov 2013 at 3:59 pm

    ccbowers-
    You make an interesting distinction between ideological vs. other types of motivated reasoning.
    I think you are on to something with that.

    That said, my objections to GMO’s have nothing to do with a ‘naturalistic fallacy’, but rather a completely practical one.
    I believe that is true of the union of concerned scientists objections as well.

    The union’s objections seem to have to do with the falsehoods that are used to promote the GMO’s.

    My objections have to do with property rights.

    All one has to do is realize that if the GMO owners would take responsibility for the product with which they want to make countless billions in profit, the opposition would have nothing to say.

    Tell the owners of the patents that if their property messes up someone else’s property, then they are responsible for monetary damages and clean-up costs.
    It’s simple- if someone asks for ‘no GMO’ or doesn’t request GMO specifically, then any and all GMO in the food or products must be removed by the patent owners.
    Any and all. !00% of GMO’s must be removed upon request.

    If I own a car, and the car ends up in someone’s living room… but if I promise not to press charges for theft…

    Yeah, right.

    Of course the request for property rights sits on top of an ideology.
    But isn’t that true of any thought process- including the ones that make marketing schemes?

  92. daedalus2uon 03 Nov 2013 at 6:50 pm

    sonic, that is not how patents work.

    If property “messes up” someone’s property, then the owner of the messed up property has legal recourse against the owner of the property that did the messing.

    Who is getting their property messed up by Golden Rice?

    If you want to buy rice that doesn’t have GMOs in it, then go right ahead. Just because you want GMO-free products doesn’t produce an obligation on the part of anyone to produce them for you. If you buy rice and it has GMOs in it, your recourse is against the person who sold the rice to you if they committed fraud by claiming the rice they sold was GMO-free. If they didn’t claim the rice was GMO-free, then you don’t have any recourse.

  93. sonicon 04 Nov 2013 at 12:31 am

    daedalus2u-
    If a GMO shows up on my property, what can I do?

    Monsanto can sue me for theft if they want to, otherwise I have no recourse whatsoever.
    Doesn’t even matter if the GMO shows up on my property as the result of negligent planting– in fact with alfalfa I think the farmers are encouraged to plant in a manner that will spread the GMO to places where people have expressly asked not to have them (or at least not discouraged to do so).

    I believe in Europe the law is as I suggest it should be here.
    The insurance companies won’t cover the GMO makers for liability and this is why they don’t have GMO in Europe.

    Anyway– the way the law is here now- if a GMO shows up on my property where I have expressly asked not to have them, I have no recourse whatsoever. On the other hand, if a GMO shows up the company holding the patent can sue me for patent infringement and bankrupt me.

    Nice, huh?

  94. rezistnzisfutlon 04 Nov 2013 at 2:16 am

    I’m going to have to back up the conversation a bit to address some points previously made.

    Mlema, it’s not apples and oranges when comparing the revenue between the organic industry and biotech – revenue is revenue, and profit is profit. The fact of the matter is, organic is big business that draws in substantially more revenue and profit than biotech, by orders of magnitude.

    But I don’t see how that either would reflect on the profit motive in the biotech industry when it comes to disseminating misleading information.”

    What misleading information are you referring to? You’ll have to be more specific. As far as I’m aware, little has actually been outright misleading, from either organic or biotech. Embellishment, perhaps, but that’s how business operates.

    There are highly respected independent scientists who are suggesting that we do need to be cautious with regards to the proliferation of GE crops, for a number of reasons, including environmental and health. Those same scientists are saying we need to strengthen regulation, which suggests that the level of current regulation is inadequate in light of the inherent risk of some of the technologies.

    So? No one is suggesting we take any new crop type, form of agriculture, technology, or practice lightly, and they aren’t taken lightly. Take your previous link regarding the “risks” of standard, hybrid, and GM crop types for example. You claim that there are inherent risks specific to GMs that warrant taking them out of the food supply. That is false. For one, in the scheme of things risks are very low, even as they are. For another, there have been risks to modification for decades, even centuries, that far outweigh most forms of GE manipulation (in the graphic you linked to, hybridization posed substantially more “risk” than BT crops, for example). Kevin Folta show another graphic that illustrates this better.

    http://kfolta.blogspot.com/2012/06/more-frankenfood-paradox.html

    That scientists sound concerns about how agriculture is implemented is nothing new, and a valid issue, but hardly anything unique to GE crops. ANYTHING added to an ecosystem is going to place selective pressures on the organisms filling that niche, no matter what it is. At some point, there will be a “critical mass” where a problem will arise that will need to be addressed, whether it’s when the predatory insects used in an organic orchard allows for a worse type of pest to take the place of their prey species, or when weeds develop resistances to pesticides, there will always be issues that need to be dealt with. That’s simply how it is when humans interact with, and manipulate, the natural world, and has been that way since agriculture began.

    Furthermore, there will always be scientists, or experts in any field, sounding alarms and generally spreading baseless fear. There are scientists who deny evolution and climate change. Most of the time, they have strong motivations for these stances that lie well outside of science, and most of the time they are far outside the general scientific consensus. Most damning of all is that they have little actual data to support their positions. So, do you have anything besides red herrings and strawmen?

    As ccbowers already mentioned, there may be some people on the “pro” side who engage in misinformation, but there aren’t many, most of them don’t realize it if they do and would gladly correct it if pointed out, most of them aren’t actually defending GMOs as much as they are defending science, and any misinformation they spread is far inferior to the scope, level, and breadth of the misinformation often knowingly spread by ideologically-driven activists. Sorry, but it isn’t science that activists use to spread their message, it’s emotion (primarily fear) and manipulation of innate human biases.

    Also, when the “ideology” “pros” spread is actually aligned with science, then there really isn’t a problem with it, as long as it continues to align with the science. I liken that problem with many on the left who acknowledge climate change but deny the safety of GMOs, or those on the right who deny climate change but approve of vaccines.

  95. rezistnzisfutlon 04 Nov 2013 at 2:42 am

    Sonic,

    There haven’t been any tests that demonstrate the rice can be grown and used in the situations for which it is being touted.

    What do you mean? It’s been growing in rice paddies for years, primarily in test fields. That’s all the evidence necessary. Sounds to me like you need a little education in what GR is and can do. The ONLY difference between GR and it’s conventional counterpart is the insertion of two genes into what ever cultivar is prevalent and most utilized in a certain area.

    http://goldenrice.org/

    What science regarding GMO’s is ‘settled’?

    Pretty much all of it, as far as the safety and efficacy of GMOs. That’s why the overwhelming scientific consensus supports GMOs as a technology, for its usefulness as a tool among many to aid in agriculture across the world. There is no “debate” within the scientific community at this point. I liken the talk involving GMOs to that regarding the motivated science denying rhetoric regarding evolution.

    http://www.biofortified.org/2013/10/20-points-of-broad-scientific-consensus-on-ge-crops/

    http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2013/08/27/glp-infographic-international-science-organizations-on-crop-biotechnology-safety/#.UndLyRDUMcU

  96. rezistnzisfutlon 04 Nov 2013 at 2:55 am

    A helpful hint: while anti-gmo sites have pictures of people in hazmat suits and gas masks, the pro-gmo sites have friendly little cartoon characters of RR corn or bt cotton.

    This is a good example of why you’re incorrect about the scope and level of misinformation and ideologically-driven rhetoric. For one, in this scenario one is a blatant attempt at misinformation, and the other, while likely imprecise, isn’t representing a knowing attempt to misinform. Furthermore, your attempt to paint “pro” people, whatever that means, as being industry mouthpieces and happy proponents of anything technology. This is a strawman and cherry-picking, because it’s not just industry spokespeople or techies who support GMOs as a useful technology, it’s nearly all related scientists, scientific bodies, and regulatory agencies around the world who happily smile from their microscopes, many who don’t have any ties to industry.

    Most of what I’m seeing from you and sonic are, quite frankly, conspiracy theories led by science denialism, fed by logical fallacies. While there may be legitimate concerns about GMOs and serious conversations to be had about modern agriculture, little of what you’ve posted is wholly factual and not representative of reality.

    An actual concern with a GM crop may be how, due to it’s specific ability to resist a certain pest insect, how that insect may eventually develop a resistant, or how another, worse pest may eventually supplant the original pest. While this situation is not unique in agriculture, it may be unique to that crop that has a specific resistance, similar to how a vaccine helps the body resist a certain bacteria that may eventually form a resistance to the vaccine.

    To attribute nearly any of the issues you and sonic have placed on GMs as unique to GMs displays a gross misunderstanding of genetics and agriculture, especially when it comes to GR in this particular situation.

  97. rezistnzisfutlon 04 Nov 2013 at 3:09 am

    Monsanto can sue me for theft if they want to, otherwise I have no recourse whatsoever. Doesn’t even matter if the GMO shows up on my property as the result of negligent planting– in fact with alfalfa I think the farmers are encouraged to plant in a manner that will spread the GMO to places where people have expressly asked not to have them (or at least not discouraged to do so).

    I challenge you to find one court case where Monsanto has taken a farmer to court over inadvertent planting of their crop. This is one of the more pernicious myths that has lasted years ever since the
    Percy Schmeiser case was highlighted in the “documentary” Food, Inc.. The only time Monsanto has sued farmers is when it was demonstrated that the farmers knowingly utilized their seeds outside of their previously signed contracts, or otherwise knowingly pirated their seeds.

    In other words, Monsanto won’t sue a farmer even if their farm has an acre or two of their crop. They will sue a farmer if they knowingly planted a thousand acres of their crop, which was what Schmeiser did.

    http://www.historycommons.org/context.jsp?item=gm-47#gm-47

  98. rezistnzisfutlon 04 Nov 2013 at 3:09 am

    *sorry for the quoting error…

  99. BillyJoe7on 04 Nov 2013 at 6:10 am

    RIF,

    Sonic is not saying that Monsanto is suing people for accidentally having GE on their property. He is saying that, as the law stands, they could if they wanted to, even if they aren’t. You have to get used to sonicspeak. He is never quite saying what you think he’s saying. Regardless, he is inevitably wrong. Sometimes he is not even wrong…

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/new-ipcc-report-on-climate-change/comment-page-1/#comment-60668

    Sorry for contaminating this thread |:

  100. rezistnzisfutlon 04 Nov 2013 at 7:43 am

    Sure, Monsanto could have sued if they wanted to, just like I could sue my neighbor for their dog pooping in my yard anytime I want to.

    For one, Monsanto doesn’t sue anyway even though they technically could, and for another, I’m not aware of many lawsuits they’ve actually lost when anything has ever made it to court – they seem only to sue when they actually have a case. Now I’m sure the conspiracy theorists would claim that they win because the courts are “part of the system”, but I’m sure more rational heads would realize that they won because the preponderance of evidence was in their favor, as well as the weight of the law.

    Conversely, people have sued Monsanto for “contaminating” non-GM fields. The most recent example was GM wheat found in Oregon organic crops.

    Sonic is using the myth that Monsanto does sue farmers out of business because of accidental cross-pollination or seeding as a cautionary “threat” that it’s possible that they can do so, while seemingly disregarding the opposite being the factual reality where others have sued Monsanto.

    So, while the law may allow Monsanto so sue farmers, the same law allows farmers to sue Monsanto. It’s a non-argument and it elevates Monsanto to the massive global conspiratorial level that they are nowhere near.

    Not disagreeing with you as a matter of course, but he is propagating a myth.

  101. sonicon 04 Nov 2013 at 1:00 pm

    rezistnzisfutl-
    Actually it is possible to sue a company for gene contamination-
    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304450604576420330493480082

    Note- the rice in question had not been approved by the federal regulators.

    And the Oregon farmers are suing over the wheat because– the strain wasn’t approved by the government.
    http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20130606-711940.html

    That’s why I can’t go after Monsanto– the government protects them with an ‘approval’.
    No conspiracy– it’s all out in the open.

    Do you think the anti-GMO people are completely wrong all the time on every detail?

  102. rezistnzisfutlon 04 Nov 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Anyone can go after Monsanto if they can demonstrate damage of some sort. An organic company can sue for infringement in of their patented hybrid.

    The government doesn’t protect them any more or less than anyone else. The only piece of legislation they have in place is the Monsanto Protection Act which prevents activists from constantly tying up Monsanto in court with bogus claims in order to prevent their seeds from reaching the market. Beyond that, they can be sued, and have been sued, and other companies who hold patents on their plants can sue, and have sued, if their plant is used outside of the patent.

    I think anti-GMO people are wrong most of the time, sure, but even a broken clock is right twice a day. That’s the difference between skepticism and the cynic’s ideology, is that a skeptic can weigh the evidence and argumentation and change their stance, whereas an ideologue isn’t inclined to do the same thing.

    Other times, when it comes to more philosophical or political issues, such as the role of capitalism or patent law, those issues are more opinion based and should be regarded as such. I may disagree with someone, but it doesn’t necessarily make them factually incorrect like it does with most of the information spewed by activists.

  103. rezistnzisfutlon 04 Nov 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Farmers in Oregon didn’t sue Monsanto because the wheat wasn’t approved by the government, they sued because it was found in their non-GM crop which Japan wouldn’t buy because of it.

    The matter of Oregon wheat is pointing to a possible act of sabotage by activists in order to instill outrage in the public, because the wheat variety found was one that was never brought to market and one that Monsanto had scrapped years ago. It also could have been an accident.

    http://www.biofortified.org/2013/06/gmo-crops-vandalized-in-oregon/

    Incidentally, the fact that it wasn’t approved by the government means that the regulatory system is working – Monsanto never pursued wheat because of this and because of the overhead involved in developing a viable strain.

    If it weren’t for all the hand-waving by activists, an legitimate issue that does need to be addressed is that of cross-pollination and contamination of similar cultivars. These can occur between organic, conventional, and GM crops as readily as each other, and is an industry-wide issue. Activists fallaciously only point to GMOs being the problem when in fact it’s an issue across the board. Most of the time, it’s not an issue as steps are taken to mitigate it.

  104. rezistnzisfutlon 04 Nov 2013 at 4:22 pm

    That’s why I can’t go after Monsanto– the government protects them with an ‘approval’.

    This is actually false. Even with the MPA, there is nothing stopping anyone from legally pursuing Monsanto. You can still “go after” them. What can’t be done at this time is preventing their seeds from going to market while the case is being heard. If at any time actual harm is shown and an issue with the seed in question found, the court can then order the seed be recalled.

  105. Mlemaon 05 Nov 2013 at 2:18 am

    Sonic, sorry – I linked to the article in that comment to show that Schubert is qualified to critique transgenic safety. My questions about nutritionally-enhanced plants and regulations were meant to refer back to the article on the safety of nutritionally enhanced plants (including golden rice)

    The Problem with Nutritionally Enhanced Plants, by David Schubert, Salk Institute, La Jolla, California
    http://fbae.org/2009/FBAE/website/images/PDF%20files/False%20Propaganda/David%20Schubert-Problems%20With%20Nutirtionally%20Enhanced%20Foods.pdf

    I think maybe you’re the only one reading my links. I’ve posted the same ones over and over in response to various questions/comments – but in the replies I get, no one acknowledges what’s being said through the links.

  106. Mlemaon 05 Nov 2013 at 2:37 am

    ccbowers, thanks. I don’t remember looking at the Salk.edu page.
    Not sure what you mean by “nice way to blame the ‘other side’…”
    Since you said “Search GMOs and you’ll see the natural news website, mercola, Huffpo articles, etc etc promoting misinformation and fear mongering.” – I figured it was likely that I saw the false credentials on an anti-GMO site. That’s because Dr. Schubert’s article could possibly be used to promote the anti-GMO cause – which you said promotes misinformation. Knowing that you don’t believe there is any information on any of the anti-GMO sites that is accurate (or maybe I got that wrong?) – I said “dirty, rotten liars”. I certainly didn’t mean to truly blame an anti-GMO site for my mistake. I take full responsibility.
    (I look at both pro- and anti-sites)

    Re: pro-GMO sites. The sites I’m talking about give misinformation in the form of educational materials for the public, or, they represent organizations claiming “to provide science-based information on agricultural biotechnology issues to various stakeholders across the world.” To “promote public understanding” – that sort of thing. Or they present advertising as biotech/science news.
    I’m going to list a few for you, but I’ll have to break up the list into another comment so it will post. Here’s two:
    http://www.europabio.org/what-are-agricultural-biotechnology-and-genetic-modification
    http://www.agbioworld.org/about/index.html

    To address your thoughts on ideology:
    We have the industry and it’s money on the one side, doing pro-GMO propaganda, and we have on the anti-GMO groups on the other, raising fear and anger. Then we have the many citizens, all of whom may or may not understand the science. This means there is not a polar opposition. We need to consider that there is more than one kind of person on either side of this debate. That is, there are people on both sides of the debate that really do understand the science and are taking directly opposing views on how that science should be understood and utilized. If any of those people misrepresent the science, they are willfully doing so in an attempt to advance their goals. In those cases we need to ask: what are their motivations in willfully misrepresenting the science? After considering that group, we then need to look at all the people who don’t understand the science, but have chosen a side: anti- or pro- GMO. These are the ideologues – right? They have a viewpoint based on anything and everything except the actual science.
    In my opinion:
    As far as websites and other media go: most of those on the pro-gmo side, when knowledgeable about the science, are willfully putting out misinformation for the sake of biotech profit, or, when they don’t understand the science completely, have bought into the rhetoric because they want to identify with science and technology – and they have an ideology that says these things can save the world (maybe they even got that idea from a biotech website) The anti-GMO sites, when knowledgeable, exaggerate and sensationalize. Or, when they don’t understand the science, spread misinformation and misunderstanding and try to get people politically motivated against the biotech companies and products because of their own fear and anger (which they maybe got from a website). Or a mixture of both. All the many people “out there” will decide what misinformation to believe based on their ideologies. Honestly, i think it’s really difficult for the average person to know what to believe.

    Numerous motivations on both sides: money, techno-fix fallacy, naturalistic fallacy, anti-corporate sentiment, public welfare, individual rights, preservation of sovereign integrity, maintenance of political/economic power, etc.

    I hope that I’ve thoroughly explained my feelings on the ideologies involved in the gmo issue, and my opinions on their relative problems.
    I hope too that you’ll try to answer the following questions before asking me to further expound:
    Do both ideologies have a commitment to outcome? What’s the outcome in each case?
    what could be the worst that would happen if the anti-gmos got their way?
    what could be the worst that would happen if pro-gmos got their way?
    What do we lose if we stop planting GMO food crops? What do we gain?
    What do we gain if gmo crops continue to supplant traditionally bred crops? What do we lose?
    Is current safety assessment appropriate?
    If not, how could it be made more appropriate?

    Next, you seem to have expressed the following sentiments. What are your thoughts now on:
    GMOs are not different from the genetic modification that’s been going on for many centuries.
    In fact, GMO’s are safer because they’re a targeted breeding and are heavily tested and regulated.
    Scientifically, labeling is unwarranted.

    thanks…

  107. Mlemaon 05 Nov 2013 at 2:37 am


    http://academicsreview.org/
    http://soygrowers.com/

  108. Mlemaon 05 Nov 2013 at 2:44 am

    rezistnzisfutl,
    Organic food accounts for less than 5% of food sales in the US. The remainder of food sales includes lot of GMO corn, soy, sugar beets. The production of corn and soy receive the vast majority of federal subsidies, which support the type of farming which then in turn supports the biotech industry. I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make re: money comparison between organic food and biotech. They’re not the same kind of industry. To me it’s like comparing the money made in oil to the money made in auto manufacture. Kinda related, but I don’t know what the value of the comparison is. I’m sure that on the part of big organic business, there’s plenty of advertising which paints an unrealistic picture, so if your point is: all business uses misinformation in their advertising, then ok I guess. But what we’re trying to sort out is: what is true about GMOs?

    “You claim that there are inherent risks specific to GMs that warrant taking them out of the food supply.” – rezistnzisfutl
    Don’t remember saying that. Please supply quote/context if you’d like to discuss.
    I find the Folta chart you linked to misleading. If you go back and read what i ‘ve written regarding transgenic technology, you’ll see where Folta and I differ on the relative risk of these various breeding methods. He’s perpetuating the “all breeding creates unwanted effects and transgenic is more targeted so it’s safer” myth. Seems like he should know better based on his credentials.

    “scientists…sounding alarms and generally spreading baseless fear.” -rezistnzisfutl
    You haven’t answered the concerns that scientists like Schubert have expressed.

    “most damning of all is that they have little actual data to support their positions.” -rezistnzisfutl
    In science, the precautionary principle means the burden of proof is on the industry to prove its products are safe, not on the independent scientists and public to prove to the industry and regulators that’s it’s dangerous. It’s enough to show there’s a scientific reason for concern.
    As Schubert says: “there are, in fact, no data comparing the food safety profiles of GM versus conventional breeding, and the ubiquitous argument that since there is no evidence that GM products make people sick, they are safe (see, for example, McHughen and Smyth, Bradford et al., and Miller et al) is both illogical and false. There are, again, simply no data or even valid assays to support this contention.”

    You can’t just say there are hundreds of studies that attest to the safety of GM foods. You’ve got to assess the research that’s been done for appropriateness, thoroughness and validity. And you’ve got to keep in mind that in this field the money doesn’t favor independent safety research. It’s there for the research, but not that aspect of it. Meaning, there’s not as much being done, and when it is it has to face the industry spin machine. I’m not insinuating anything, I’m just reminding you of the things you need to keep in mind as you form your skeptic opinions on GMO.

    “…there may be some people on the “pro” side who engage in misinformation, but there aren’t many, most of them don’t realize it if they do and would gladly correct it if pointed out, most of them aren’t actually defending GMOs as much as they are defending science, and any misinformation they spread is far inferior to the scope, level, and breadth of the misinformation often knowingly spread by ideologically-driven activists. Sorry, but it isn’t science that activists use to spread their message, it’s emotion (primarily fear) and manipulation of innate human biases.” -rezistnzisfutl
    Seems like you’re defending the intentions of gmo advocates. But do you always know what they are? How can you compare the “scope, level and breadth” of pro- and anti-gmo misinformation without first dissecting what the misinformation is? You are saying point blank that people who are anti-gmo spread misinformation knowingly, while pro-gmo only spread misinformation out of ignorance – which they then correct when they’re called on it. i don’t see that in either case. Both sides spread misinformation knowingly and unknowingly. If anyone isn’t spreading misinformation, then they’re not pro- or con-, they’re just spreading information, right? Please see comment to ccbowers above where I explain my ideas on the ideology.

    “Also, when the “ideology” “pros” spread is actually aligned with science, then there really isn’t a problem with it, as long as it continues to align with the science. I liken that problem with many on the left who acknowledge climate change but deny the safety of GMOs, or those on the right who deny climate change but approve of vaccines.” -rezistnzisfutl
    This is confusing to me. I guess you’re saying that whenever you have an ideologue, you have to see whether or not his/her ideology lines up with science in order to decide whether or not their ideology is a problem. To me the problem is: if a person has an ideology, and is simultaneously unable to assess the science themselves, then they will form their beliefs about the science based on their ideology. So, the ideology is the problem. (along with lack of scientific knowledge) Perhaps an ideologue might just coincidentally support something that’s true and beneficial, but it would always be by chance, not by reasoned conclusion.

  109. Mlemaon 05 Nov 2013 at 2:53 am

    The problem with patented transgenic plants (as far as lawsuits go) is two-fold (as i see it):

    there is no control over the “product” – so, if a farmer decides to utilize the technology that has shown up on his property (for example – he gathers RR soy and replants, and takes advantage of the glyphosate-resistant trait), he’ll be sued. Fair enough. But what if, for instance, you decide to use glyphosate on your weeds and you find out they’re resistant? Can you sue because the technology made your weeds resistant? No. In the south, pigweed has become resistant to glyphosate. This is especially problematic because of the way that particular plant reproduces. Farmers are having to go back to integrated pest management strategies which probably should have been used all along. Unfortunately, that will likely include new and different seeds that are resistant to 2,4D, a much more toxic pesticide. Hence, the pesticide treadmill speeds up.
    Some people, for whatever reason, don’t want to eat GM food. Or, more notably in the public eye, a non-approved or pharmaceutical plant shows up in a crop where it’s not intended. In this case, the contaminated crop becomes worthless. With the “Farmer Assurance Provision” (aka Monsanto Protection Act) farmers couldn’t sue in the case of abject contamination – this act didn’t pass this year. This kind of contamination has happened in the past and the tech company paid millions of dollars for lost profits.
    http://www.historycommons.org/entity.jsp?entity=prodigene_1
    (I think ProdiGene went out of business after a couple of major missteps)

    Monsanto uses technology contracts. In the past, in it’s exuberance to enforce, it has sued in error. Those cases are typically settled out of court and require confidentiality as part of the settlement. I think the contracts contribute to the contentious nature of the Monsanto-farming community argument.
    exMPLE of contract:
    http://thefarmerslife.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/scan_doc0004.pdf
    Farmers also have contracts with food processors. At the front end and the back end, farmers seem to have less and less control over how they run their farms. Add to this the fact that the US farm bill favors certain crops and kinds of plantings and you have corporate welfare and reduced farm health and diversity coming to us via Monsanto seeds. Monsanto owns 90% of corn, cotton and soy in the US. Breakdown of US farm subsidies:
    http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/images/fa/subsidies-2010.jpg
    sorry, i tried to stay away from Monsanto, but I didn’t bring it up first :)

  110. sonicon 05 Nov 2013 at 4:34 am

    rezistnzisfutl-
    I am wrong- well, sort of.

    In June 2013 a court ruled that Monsanto can’t go after farmers who have small amounts (less than 1%) of contamination (let’s see how long that lasts.) Before that, any GMO on a property was violation of patent laws unless the person had paid the patent owner for the seed. So the guy whose property has been contaminated can’t sue– if he does he will be found in violation of the law and will have to pay the patent holder for the seed.

    Anyway, if Monsanto can’t sue a farmer for small amounts of contamination, then perhaps this will allow the reverse– the farmer to sue Monsanto for contamination- that’s the way some of the farmers are touting it, anyway.
    I’m not sure that this is really a big deal– I think in many cases the contamination is greater than 1% which would make the case against the farmer for patent infringement.

    We shall see how this plays out.

    I did need to update my information on this– thanks for the prod.

    Mlema-
    For me, I don’t think we need GMO for food production.
    As soon as I say that, I see no reason we should tolerate all the baloney that has come up around this.
    We don’t need any of it.
    I think that’s the thing– people have been convinced somehow that these are needed for survival.
    If I thought we needed them to survive, my reasoning would be motivated such that I wouldn’t see any problems with them at all, I think.

  111. Mlemaon 06 Nov 2013 at 5:52 am

    sonic, it does seem that everyone has an opinion on this issue.

  112. ccbowerson 06 Nov 2013 at 9:32 am

    Re: comments from Mlema on 05 Nov 2013 at 2:37 am

    I largely agree with your written thoughts on how ideology can impact this topic and others. I just think that antiGMO proponents are more ideologically motivated towards the outcome of GMO = bad than almost anyone is towards GMO=good. The exception is the industry itself, because they have a vested interest, but this is always true in any industry, and is really a small proportion of people. Pro industry and protechnology tendencies are much more general, and area not necessarily tied to GMO specifically. Anyways, I do not want to belabor that point anymore. I agree that most people do not fit neatly into ideological categories.

    Your other questions/topics are more involved, and I will have to address them at a later time.

  113. rezistnzisfutlon 06 Nov 2013 at 7:19 pm

    Agreed ccbowers. It’s false equivalency to equate “anti” v. “pro” as if they’re equal sides of an argument, especially in terms of how much they are each ideologically motivated. Is being pro-science and recognizing the potential, and actual, benefit humans can get from GMOs an ideology? Is wanting to defend science from ideology an ideology in itself? That’s the conclusion one must draw in order to equate the level of ideology used by anti-GMO activists to that of those who argue in favor of them.

    I liken it to those arguing against evolution and those arguing for it – it’s often claimed by those against evolution that there is some great debate going on about whether evolution exists, when the controversy only exists in their minds and there is no actual controversy within the science. This is an attempt to appeal to fairness for the side that opposes the science as if they have legitimacy to their claims equal to that of the science, when in reality their claims are hollow.

    I, too, will address more specific claims when I have the time.

  114. Mlemaon 07 Nov 2013 at 6:15 am

    ccbowers, rezistnzisfutl,
    thank you for the conversation. Personally, I’d like to see us (everybody) get a better handle on the actual science so that we can sort out what’s true from what’s not true. As skeptics, we have to be aware not only of the science involved, but, as you’ve stressed, what is forming public opinion. I’m far from expert, and I’m trying very hard to not to be biased, but I admit I feel more anger when I find out that my tax dollars are being used, through the US State Dept, to advance Monsanto’s profits abroad, than I do when somebody who obviously doesn’t know what they’re talking about says Monsanto is evil. I do separate these political/financial battles from the science – but it’s impossible to separate them from the ideology, which is formed by the rhetoric that the industry advances to influence those unable to decipher the science.

    Regarding the US State Dept and Monsanto:
    In 2010, Wikileaks revealed US State dept cables that ordered embassies around the world to push pro-Monsanto legislation – one strategy memo included an ‘advocacy toolkit’ for diplomatic posts. They were to push the idea that GE seeds could solve the food crisis.
    the State Dept cables also revealed that:
    In 2005, South African ambassadors suggested to Monsanto and Pioneer that they try to fill open positions in the government’s biotech regulatory agencies by advancing their own applicants. In Indonesia, the embassy was still lobbying on Monsanto’s behalf the same year that Monsanto paid $1.5 million in fines for bribing an Indonesian official to repeal rules that governed the planting of GMOs there.

    Lest we believe this is simply our State Dept.’s advancement of US technology and interests abroad, here’s a quote from one of the most aggressive communiques (context is Europe’s resistance to GMO):

    “Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU… Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices.”

    Sounds military, right? I was shocked to read this and angered that Monsanto has somehow usurped our embassies to do it’s marketing and lobbying with this kind of stuff.

    I’m trying to keep my eyes open in every direction.
    thanks again

    PS – regarding transgenics to solve the food crisis, the UN has invested a lot of energy in assessing long-term solutions to these problems.
    here’s one part of it’s report
    http://www.unep.org/dewa/agassessment/docs/10505_Multi.pdf

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